Part 4 out of 7
during his term full of the most charming and valuable recollections.
His dinners felt the magnetism of his presence, and he showed
especial skill in having, to meet his American guests, just the
famous men in London life whom the American desired to know.
Choate was a fine conversationalist, a wit and a humorist of
a high order. His audacity won great triumphs, but if exercised
by a man less endowed would have brought him continuously into
trouble. He had the faculty, the art, of so directing conversation
that at his entertainments everybody had a good time, and an
invitation always was highly prized. He was appreciated most
highly by the English bench and bar. They recognized him as the
leader of his profession in the United States. They elected him
a Bencher of the Middle Temple, the first American to receive that
honor after an interval of one hundred and fifty years. Choate's
witticisms and repartees became the social currency of dinner-tables
in London and week-end parties in the country.
Choate paid little attention to conventionalities, which count for
so much and are so rigidly enforced, especially in royal circles.
I had frequently been at receptions, garden-parties, and other
entertainments at Buckingham Palace in the time of Queen Victoria
and also of King Edward. At an evening reception the diplomats
representing all the countries in the world stand in a solemn row,
according to rank and length of service. They are covered with
decorations and gold lace. The weight of the gold lace on some
of the uniforms of the minor powers is as great as if it were a
coat of armor. Mr. Choate, under regulations of our diplomatic
service, could only appear in an ordinary dress suit.
While the diplomats stand in solemn array, the king and queen
go along the line and greet each one with appropriate remarks.
Nobody but an ambassador and minister gets into that brilliant
circle. On one occasion Mr. Choate saw me standing with the other
guests outside the charmed circle and immediately left the diplomats,
came to me, and said: "I am sure you would like to have a talk
with the queen." He went up to Her Majesty, stated the case and
who I was, and the proposition was most graciously received.
I think the royalties were pleased to have a break in the formal
etiquette. Mr. Choate treated the occasion, so far as I was
concerned, as if it had been a reception in New York or Salem,
and a distinguished guest wanted to meet the hosts. The gold-laced
and bejewelled and highly decorated diplomatic circle was paralyzed.
Mr. Choate's delightful personality and original conversational
powers made him a favorite guest everywhere, but he also carried
to the platform the distinction which had won for him the reputation
of being one of the finest orators in the United States.
Choate asked at one time when I was almost nightly making speeches
at some entertainment: "How do you do it?" I told him I was
risking whatever reputation I had on account of very limited
preparation, that I did not let these speeches interfere at all
with my business, but that they were all prepared after I had
arrived home from my office late in the afternoon. Sometimes
they came easy, and I reached the dinner in time; at other times
they were more difficult, and I did not arrive till the speaking
had begun. Then he said: "I enjoy making these after-dinner
addresses more than any other work. It is a perfect delight for
me to speak to such an audience, but I have not the gift of quick
and easy preparation. I accept comparatively few of the constant
invitations I receive, because when I have to make such a speech
I take a corner in the car in the morning going to my office,
exclude all the intruding public with a newspaper and think all
the way down. I continue the same process on my way home in
the evening, and it takes about three days of this absorption and
exclusiveness, with some time in the evenings, to get an address
with which I am satisfied."
The delicious humor of these efforts of Mr. Choate and the wonderful
way in which he could expose a current delusion, or what he thought
was one, and produce an impression not only on his audience but
on the whole community, when his speech was printed in the
newspapers, was a kind of effort which necessarily required
preparation. In all the many times I heard him, both at home and
abroad, he never had a failure and sometimes made a sensation.
Among the many interesting characters whom I met on shipboard
was Emory Storrs, a famous Chicago lawyer. Storrs was a genius
of rare talent as an advocator. He also on occasions would make
a most successful speech, but his efforts were unequal. At one
session of the National Bar Association he carried off all honors
at their banquet. Of course, they wanted him the next year, but
then he failed entirely to meet their expectations.. Storrs was
one of the most successful advocates at the criminal bar, especially
in murder cases. He rarely failed to get an acquittal for his
client. He told me many interesting stories of his experiences.
He had a wide circuit, owing to his reputation, and tried cases
far distant from home.
I remember one of his experiences in an out-of-the-way county of
Arkansas. The hotel where they all stopped was very primitive,
and he had the same table with the judge. The most attractive
offer for breakfast by the landlady was buckwheat-cakes. She
appeared with a jug of molasses and said to the judge: "Will you
have a trickle or a dab?" The judge answered: "A dab." She then
ran her fingers around the jug and slapped a huge amount of molasses
on the judge's cakes. Storrs said: "I think I prefer a trickle."
Whereupon she dipped her fingers again in the jug and let the
drops fall from them on Storrs's cakes. The landlady was
disappointed because her cakes were unpopular with such
Once Storrs was going abroad on the same ship with me on a sort
of semi-diplomatic mission. He was deeply read in English literature
and, as far as a stranger could be, familiar with the places made
famous in English and foreign classics.
He was one of the factors, as chairman of the Illinois delegation,
of the conditions which made possible the nomination of Garfield
and Arthur. In the following presidential campaign he took an
active and very useful part. Then he brought all the influences
that he could use, and they were many, to bear upon President Arthur
to make him attorney-general. Arthur was a strict formalist and
could not tolerate the thought of having such an eccentric genius
in his Cabinet. Storrs was not only disappointed but hurt that
Arthur declined to appoint him.
To make him happy his rich clients--and he had many of them--raised
a handsome purse and urged him to make a European trip. Then
the president added to the pleasure of his journey by giving him
an appointment as a sort of roving diplomat, with special duties
relating to the acute trouble then existing in regard to the
admission of American cattle into Great Britain. They were barred
because of a supposed infectious disease.
Storrs's weakness was neckties. He told me that he had three
hundred and sixty-five, a new one for every day. He would come
on deck every morning, display his fresh necktie, and receive
a compliment upon its color and appropriateness, and then take
from his pocket a huge water-proof envelope. From this he would
unroll his parchment appointment as a diplomat, and the letters
he had to almost every one of distinction in Europe. On the last
day, going through the same ceremony, he said to me: "I am not
showing you these things out of vanity, but to impress upon you
the one thing I most want to accomplish in London. I desire to
compel James Russell Lowell, our minister, to give me a dinner."
Probably no man in the world could be selected so antipathetic
to Lowell as Emory Storrs. Mr. Lowell told me that he was annoyed
that the president should have sent an interloper to meddle with
negotiations which he had in successful progress to a satisfactory
conclusion. So he invited Storrs to dinner, and then Storrs took
no further interest in his diplomatic mission.
Mr. Lowell told me that he asked Storrs to name whoever he wanted
to invite. He supposed from his general analysis of the man that
Storrs would want the entire royal family. He was delighted to
find that the selection was confined entirely to authors, artists,
On my return trip Mr. Storrs was again a fellow passenger. He
was very enthusiastic over the places of historic interest he had
visited, and eloquent and graphic in descriptions of them and of
his own intense feelings when he came in contact with things he
had dreamed of most of his life.
"But," he said, "I will tell you of my greatest adventure. I was
in the picture-gallery at Dresden, and in that small room where
hangs Raphael's 'Madonna.' I was standing before this wonderful
masterpiece of divine inspiration when I felt the room crowded.
I discovered that the visitors were all Americans and all looking
at me. I said to them: 'Ladies and gentlemen, you are here in
the presence of the most wonderful picture ever painted. If you
study it, you can see that there is little doubt but with all his
genius Raphael in this work had inspiration from above, and yet
you, as Americans, instead of availing yourselves of the rarest
of opportunities, have your eyes bent on me. I am only a Chicago
lawyer wearing a Chicago-made suit of clothes.'
"A gentleman stepped forward and said: 'Mr. Storrs, on behalf
of your countrymen and countrywomen present, I wish to say that
you are of more interest to us than all the works of Raphael put
together, because we understand that James Russell Lowell,
United States Minister to Great Britain, gave you a dinner.'"
One other incident in my acquaintance with Mr. Storrs was original.
I heard the story of it both from him and Lord Coleridge, and they
did not differ materially. Lord Coleridge, Chief Justice of England,
was a most welcome visitor when he came to the United States.
He received invitations from the State Bar Associations everywhere
to accept their hospitality. I conducted him on part of his trip
and found him one of the most able and delightful of men. He was
a very fine speaker, more in our way than the English, and made
a first-class impression upon all the audiences he addressed.
At Chicago Lord Coleridge was entertained by the Bar Association
of the State of Illinois. Storrs, who was an eminent member of
the bar of that State, came to him and said: "Now, Lord Coleridge,
you have been entertained by the Bar Association. I want you
to know the real men of the West, the captains of industry who
have created this city, built our railroads, and made the Great West
what it is." Coleridge replied that he did not want to go outside
bar associations, and he could not think of making another speech
in Chicago. Storrs assured him it would be purely a private affair
and no speeches permitted.
The dinner was very late, but when they sat down Lord Coleridge
noticed a distinguished-looking gentleman, instead of eating his
dinner, correcting a manuscript. He said: "Mr. Storrs, I understood
there was to be no speaking." "Well," said Storrs, "you can't get
Americans together unless some one takes the floor. That man
with the manuscript is General and Senator John A. Logan, one of
our most distinguished citizens." Just then a reporter came up
to Storrs and said: "Mr. Storrs, we have the slips of your speech
in our office, and it is now set up with the laughter and applause
in their proper places. The editor sent me up to see if you wanted
to add anything." Of course Lord Coleridge was in for it and had
to make another speech.
The cause of the lateness of the dinner is the most original
incident that I know of in historic banquets. Storrs received
great fees and had a large income, but was very careless about
his business matters. One of his creditors obtained a judgment
against him. The lawyer for this creditor was a guest at this
dinner and asked the landlord of the hotel if the dinner had been
paid for in advance. The landlord answered in the affirmative,
and so the lawyer telephoned to the sheriff, and had the dinner
levied upon. The sheriff refused to allow it to be served until
the judgment was satisfied. There were at least a hundred millions
of dollars represented among the guests, packers, elevator men,
real-estate operators, and grain operators, but millionaires
and multimillionaires in dress suits at a banquet never have any
money on their persons. So it was an hour or more before the
sheriff was satisfied. Lord Coleridge was intensely amused and
related the adventure with great glee.
Several years afterwards Lord Coleridge had some difficulty in
his family which came into the courts of England. I do not remember
just what it was all about, but Storrs, in reading the gossip which
came across the cable, decided against the chief justice.
Lord Coleridge told me he received from Storrs a cable reading
something like this: "I have seen in our papers about your attitude
in the suit now pending. I therefore inform you that as far as
possible I withdraw the courtesies which I extended to you in
Chicago." In this unique way Storrs cancelled the dinner which
was given and seized by the sheriff years ago.
I met Storrs many times, and he was always not only charming but
fascinating. He was very witty, full of anecdotes, and told a
story with dramatic effect. Except for his eccentricities he might
have taken the highest place in his profession. As it was, he
acquired such fame that an admirer has written a very good
biography of him.
XVIl. GOVERNORS OF NEW YORK STATE
There is nothing more interesting than to see the beginning of a
controversy which makes history. It is my good fortune to have
been either a spectator or a participant on several occasions.
William M. Tweed was at the height of his power. He was the master
of New York City, and controlled the legislature of the State.
The rapid growth and expansion of New York City had necessitated
a new charter, or very radical improvements in the existing one.
Tweed, as chairman of the Senate committee on cities, had staged
a large and spectacular hearing at the State Capitol at Albany.
It was attended by a large body of representative citizens from
the metropolis. Some spoke for civic and commercial bodies, and
there were also other prominent men who were interested. Everybody
interested in public affairs in Albany at the time attended. Not
only was there a large gathering of legislators, but there were
also in the audience judges, lawyers, and politicians from all
parts of the State.
After hearing from the Chamber of Commerce and various reform
organizations, Mr. Samuel J. Tilden came forward with a complete
charter. It was soon evident that he was better prepared and
informed on the subject than any one present. He knew intimately
the weaknesses of the present charter, and had thought out with
great care and wisdom what was needed in new legislation.
From the contemptuous way in which Senator Tweed treated Mr. Tilden,
scouted his plans, and ridiculed his propositions, it was evident
that the whole scheme had been staged as a State-wide spectacle
to humiliate and end the political career of Samuel J. Tilden.
In answer to Tilden's protest against this treatment, Tweed loudly
informed him that he represented no one but himself, that he had
neither influence nor standing in the city, that he was an
intermeddler with things that did not concern him, and a
Mr. Tilden turned ashy white, and showed evidences of suppressed
rage and vindictiveness more intense than I ever saw in any one
before, and abruptly left the hearing.
I knew Mr. Tilden very well, and from contact with him in railroad
matters had formed a high opinion of his ability and acquirements.
He had a keen, analytic mind, tireless industry, and a faculty
for clarifying difficulties and untangling apparently impossible
problems to a degree that amounted to genius.
In reference to what had happened, I said to a friend: "Mr. Tweed
must be very confident of his position and of his record, for he
has deliberately defied and invited the attacks of a relentless
and merciless opponent by every insult which could wound the
pride and incite the hatred of the man so ridiculed and abused.
Mr. Tilden is a great lawyer. He has made a phenomenal success
financially, he has powerful associates in financial and business
circles, and is master of his time for any purpose to which he
chooses to apply it."
It was not long before one of the most remarkable and exhaustive
investigations ever conducted by an individual into public records,
books, ledgers, bank-accounts, and contracts, revealed to the
public the whole system of governing the city. This master mind
solved the problems so that they were plain to the average citizen
as the simplest sum in arithmetic, or that two and two make four.
The result was the destruction of the power of Tweed and his
associates, of their prosecution and conviction, and of the
elevation of Samuel J. Tilden to a State and national figure of
the first importance. He not only became in the public mind a
leader of reforms in government, municipal, State, and national,
but embodied in the popular imagination REFORM ITSELF.
Mr. Tilden carried this same indefatigable industry and power
of organization into a canvass for governor. His agencies reached
not only the counties and towns, but the election districts of the
State. He called into existence a new power in politics--the young
men. The old leaders were generally against him, but he discovered
in every locality ambitious, resourceful, and courageous youngsters
and made them his lieutenants. This unparalleled preparation made
him the master of his party and the governor of the State.
After the election he invited me to come and see him at the
Executive Mansion in Albany, and in the course of the conversation
he said: "In your speeches in the campaign against me you were
absolutely fair, and as a fair and open-minded opponent I want to
have a frank talk. I am governor of the State, elected upon an
issue which is purely local. The Democratic party is at present
without principles or any definite issue on which to appeal to
the public. If I am to continue in power we must find an issue.
The Erie Canal is not only a State affair, but a national one.
Its early construction opened the great Northwest, and it was for
years the only outlet to the seaboard. The public not only in
the State of New York, but in the West, believes that there has
been, and is, corruption in the construction and management of
the Canal. This great waterway requires continuing contracts for
continuing repairs, and the people believe that these contracts
are given to favorites, and that the work is either not performed
at all or is badly done. I believe that matter ought to be looked
into and the result will largely justify the suspicion prevalent
in the public mind. I want your judgment on the question and
what will be the effect upon me."
I then frankly answered him: "Governor, there is no doubt it will
be a popular movement, but you know that the Canal contractors
control the machinery of your party, and I cannot tell what the
effect of that may be upon what you desire, which is a second term."
"Those contractors," he said, "are good Democrats, and their
ability to secure the contracts depends upon Democratic supremacy.
A prosecution against them has been tried so often that they have
little fear of either civil or criminal actions, and I think they
will accept the issue as the only one which will keep their party
It is a part of the history of the time that he made the issue so
interesting that he became a national figure of the first importance
and afterwards the candidate of his party for President of the
United States. Not only that, but he so impressed the people
that popular judgment is still divided as to whether or not he was
rightfully elected president.
Once I was coming from the West after a tour of inspection, and
when we left Albany the conductor told me that Governor Tilden
was on the train. I immediately called and found him very
uncomfortable, because he said he was troubled with boils. I
invited him into the larger compartment which I had, and made
him as comfortable as possible. His conversation immediately
turned upon the second term and he asked what I, as a Republican,
thought of his prospects as the result of his administration. We
had hardly entered upon the subject when a very excited gentleman
burst into the compartment and said: "Governor, I have been
looking for you everywhere. I went to your office at the Capitol
and to the Executive Mansion, but learned you were here and barely
caught the train. You know who I am." (The governor knew he
was mayor of a city.) "I want to see you confidentially."
The governor said to him: "I have entire confidence in my
Republican friend here. You can trust him. Go on."
I knew the mayor very well, and under ordinary conditions he would
have insisted on the interview with the governor being private
and personal. But he was so excited and bursting with rage that
he went right on. The mayor fairly shouted: "It is the station
agent of the New York Central Railroad in our city of whom I
complain. He is active in politics and controls the Democratic
organization in our county. He is working to prevent myself and
my friends and even ex-Governor Seymour from being delegates
to the national convention. It is to the interest of our party,
in fact, I may say, the salvation of our party in our county that
this New York Central agent be either removed or silenced, and
I want you to see Mr. Vanderbilt on the subject."
The governor sympathized with the mayor and dismissed him. Then
in a quizzical way he asked me: "Do you know this agent?"
"Yes," I answered.
"What do you think of him?"
"I know nothing about his political activities," I answered, "but he
is one of the most efficient employees of the company in the State."
"Well," said the governor, "I am glad to hear you say so. He was
down to see me the other night; in fact, I sent for him, and I
formed a very high opinion of his judgment and ability."
As a matter of fact, the governor had selected him to accomplish
this very result which the mayor had said would ruin the party in
When the New York Democratic delegation left the city for the
Democratic national convention they had engaged a special train
to leave from the Grand Central Station. I went down to see that
the arrangements were perfected for its movement. It was a
hilarious crowd, and the sides of the cars were strung with Tilden
Mr. Tilden was there also to see them off. After bidding good-by
to the leaders, and with a whispered conference with each, the
mass of delegates and especially reporters, of whom there was a
crowd, wished to engage him in conversation. He spied me and
immediately hurried me into one of the alcoves, apparently for
a private conversation. The crowd, of course, gathered around,
anxious to know what it was all about. He asked me a few questions
about the health of my family and then added: "Don't leave me.
I want to avoid all these people, and we will talk until the train
is off and the crowd disperses."
Life was a burden for me the rest of the day and evening, made
so by the newspaper men and Democratic politicians trying to find
out what the mysterious chief had revealed to me in the alcove of
the Grand Central.
I was very much gratified when meeting him after the fierce battles
for the presidency were over, to have him grasp me by the hand
and say: "You were about the only one who treated me absolutely
fairly during the campaign."
I love little incidents about great men. Mr. Tilden was intensely
human and a great man.
Doctor Buckley, who was at the head of the Methodist Book Concern
in New York, and one of the most delightful of men, told me that
there came into his office one day a Methodist preacher from one
of the mining districts of Pennsylvania, who said to him: "My church
burned down. We had no insurance. We are poor people, and,
therefore, I have come to New York to raise money to rebuild it."
The doctor told him that New York was overrun from all parts of
the country with applicants for help, and that he thought he would
have great difficulty in his undertaking.
"Well," the preacher said, "I am going to see Mr. Tilden."
Doctor Buckley could not persuade him that his mission was next
to impossible, and so this rural clergyman started for Gramercy Park.
When he returned he told the doctor of his experience.
"I rang the bell," he said, "and when the door was opened I saw
Governor Tilden coming down the stairs. I rushed in and told him
hastily who I was before the man at the door could stop me, and
he invited me into his library. I stated my mission, and he said
he was so overwhelmed with applications that he did not think he
could do anything. 'But, governor,' I said, 'my case differs from
all others. My congregation is composed of miners, honest,
hardworking people. They have hitherto been Republicans on the
protection issue, but they were so impressed by you as a great
reformer that they all voted for you in the last election.' The
governor said: 'Tell that story again.' So I started again to
tell him about my church, but he interrupted me, saying: 'Not that,
but about the election.' So I told him again about their having,
on account of their admiration for him as a reformer, turned from
the Republican party and voted the Democratic ticket. Then the
governor said: 'Well, I think you have a most meritorious case,
and so I will give you all I have.'"
Doctor Buckley interrupted him hastily, saying: "Great heavens,
are you going to build a cathedral?"
"No," answered the clergyman; "all he had in his pocket was two
dollars and fifty cents."
Governor Tilden had many followers and friends whose admiration
for him amounted almost to adoration. They believed him capable
of everything, and they were among the most intelligent and able men
of the country.
John Bigelow, journalist, author, and diplomat, was always sounding
his greatness, both with tongue and pen. Abram S. Hewitt was an
equally enthusiastic friend and admirer. Both of these gentlemen,
the latter especially, were, I think, abler than Mr. Tilden, but
did not have his hypnotic power.
I was dining one night with Mr. Hewitt, whose dinners were always
events to be remembered, when Mr. Tilden became the subject of
discussion. After incidents illustrating his manifold distinctions
had been narrated, Mr. Hewitt said that Mr. Tilden was the only one
in America and outside of royalties in Europe who had some
blue-labelled Johannisberger. This famous wine from the vineyards
of Prince Metternich on the Rhine was at that time reported to be
absorbed by the royal families of Europe.
Our host said: "The bouquet of this wonderful beverage is unusually
penetrating and diffusing, and a proof is that one night at a dinner
in the summer, with the windows all open, the guests noticed this
peculiar aroma in the air. I said to them that Governor Tilden had
opened a bottle of his Johannisberger."
The governor's residence was on the other side of Gramercy Park
from Mr. Hewitt's. The matter was so extraordinary that everybody
at the table went across the park, and when they were admitted
they found the governor in his library enjoying his bottle of
When Mr. Tilden was elected governor, my friend, General Husted,
was speaker of the assembly, which was largely Republican. The
governor asked General Husted to come down in the evening, because
he wanted to consult him about the improvements and alterations
necessary for the Executive Mansion, and to have the speaker secure
the appropriation. During the discussion the governor placed
before the speaker a bottle of rare whiskey, with the usual
accompaniments. In front of the governor was a bottle of his
Johannisberger and a small liqueur glass, a little larger than
a thimble, from which the governor would from time to time taste
a drop of this rare and exquisite fluid. The general, after a
while, could not restrain his curiosity any longer and said:
"Governor, what is that you are drinking?"
The governor explained its value and the almost utter impossibility
of securing any.
"Well, governor," said Speaker Husted, "I never saw any before
and I think I will try it." He seized the bottle, emptied it in
his goblet and announced to the astonished executive that he was
quite right in his estimate of its excellence.
The governor lost a bottIe of his most cherished treasure but
received from the Republican legislature all the appropriation
he desired for the Executive Mansion.
It has been my good fortune to know well the governors of our
State of New York, commencing with Edmund D. Morgan. With many
of them I was on terms of close intimacy. I have already spoken of
Governors Seymour, Fenton, Dix, Tilden, Cleveland, and Roosevelt.
It might be better to confine my memory to those who have joined
Lucius Robinson was an excellent executive of the business type,
as also were Alonzo B. Cornell and Levi P. Morton. Frank S. Black
was in many ways original. He was an excellent governor, but
very different from the usual routine. In the Spanish-American War
he had a definite idea that the National Guard of our State should
not go into the service of the United States as regiments, but
as individual volunteers. The Seventh Regiment, which was the
crack organization of the Guard, was severely criticised because
they did not volunteer. They refused to go except as the Seventh
Regiment, and their enemies continued to assail them as tin soldiers.
General Louis Fitzgerald and Colonel Appleton came to me very
much disturbed by this condition. General Russell A. Alger,
secretary of war, was an intimate friend of mine, and I went to
Washington and saw him and the president on the acute condition
affecting the reputation of the Seventh Regiment.
General Alger said: "We are about to make a desperate assault
upon the fortifications of Havana. Of course there will be many
casualties and the fighting most severe. Will the Seventh join
The answer of General Fitzgerald and Colonel Appleton was emphatic
that the Seventh would march with full ranks on the shortest possible
notice. Governor Black would not change his view of how the
National Guard should go, and so the Seventh was never called.
It seems only proper that I should make a record of this patriotic
proposition made by this organization.
Governor Black developed after he became governor, and especially
after he had retired from office, into a very effective orator.
He had a fine presence and an excellent delivery. He was fond
of preparing epigrams, and became a master in this sort of literature.
When he had occasion to deliver an address, it would be almost
wholly made up of these detached gems, each perfect in itself.
The only other of our American orators who cultivated successfully
this style of speech was Senator John J. Ingalls, of Kansas. It is
a style very difficult to attain or to make successful.
David B. Hill was an extraordinary man in many ways. He was
governor for three terms and United States senator for one. His
whole life was politics. He was a trained lawyer and an excellent
one, but his heart and soul was in party control, winning popular
elections, and the art of governing. He consolidated the rural
elements of his party so effectively that he compelled Tammany Hall
to submit to his leadership and to recognize him as its master.
For many years, and winning in every contest, Governor Hill
controlled the organization and the policies of the Democratic
party of the State of New York. In a plain way he was an effective
speaker, but in no sense an orator. He contested with Cleveland
for the presidency, but in that case ran against a stronger and
bigger personality than he had ever encountered, and lost. He
rose far above the average and made his mark upon the politics
of his State and upon the United States Senate while he was a member.
Levi P. Morton brought to the governorship business ability which
had made him one of the great merchants and foremost bankers.
As Governor of the State of New York, United States Minister to
France, Congressman, and Vice-President of the United States,
he filled every position with grace, dignity, and ability. A
lovable personality made him most popular.
Roswell P. Flower, after a successful career as a banker, developed
political ambitions. He had a faculty of making friends, and had
hosts of them. He was congressman and then governor. While
the Democratic organization was hostile to him, he was of the
Mark Hanna type and carried his successful business methods into
the canvass for the nomination and the campaign for the election
and was successful.
Passing through Albany while he was governor, I stopped over to
pay my respects. I was very fond of him personally. When I rang
the door-bell of the Executive Mansion and inquired for the
governor, the servant said: "The governor is very ill and can
see nobody." Then I asked him to tell the governor, when he was
able to receive a message, that Chauncey Depew called and expressed
his deep regret for his illness. Suddenly the governor popped
out from the parlor and seized me by the hand and said: "Chauncey,
come in. I was never so glad to see anybody in my life."
He told me the legislature had adjourned and left on his hands
several thousands of thirty-days bills--that is, bills on which
he had thirty days to sign or veto, or let them become laws by
not rejecting them. So he had to deny himself to everybody to
get the leisure to read them over and form decisions.
"Do you know, Chauncey," he said, "this is a new business to me.
Most of these bills are on subjects which I never have examined,
studied, or thought about. It is very difficult to form a wise
judgment, and I want to do in each case just what is right." For
the moment he became silent, seemingly absorbed by anxious thoughts
about these bills. Then suddenly he exclaimed: "By the way,
Chauncey, you've done a great deal of thinking in your life, and
I never have done any except on business. Does intense thinking
affect you as it does me, by upsetting your stomach and making
you throw up?"
"No, governor," I answered; "if it did I fear I would be in a
chronic state of indigestion."
While he was governor he canvassed the State in a private car
and made many speeches. In a plain, homely man-to-man talk he
was very effective on the platform. His train stopped at a station
in a Republican community where there were few Democrats, while
I was addressing a Republican meeting in the village. When I had
finished my speech I said to the crowd, which was a large one:
"Governor Flower is at the station, and as I passed he had very
few people listening to him. Let us all go over and give him
The proposition was received with cheers. I went ahead, got in
at the other end of the governor's car from the one where he was
speaking from the platform. As this Republican crowd began to
pour in, it was evident as I stood behind him without his knowing
of my presence, that he was highly delighted. He shouted: "Fellow
citizens, I told you they were coming. They are coming from the
mountains, from the hills, and from the valleys. It is the
stampede from the Republican party and into our ranks and for
our ticket. This is the happiest evidence I have received of
the popularity of our cause and the success of our ticket."
Standing behind him, I made a signal for cheers, which was heartily
responded to, and the governor, turning around, saw the joke,
grasped me cordially by the hand, and the whole crowd, including
the veteran and hardened Democrats on the car, joined in the hilarity
of the occasion.
He came to me when he was running for the second time for Congress,
and said that some of the people of his district were anxious for
me to deliver an address for one of their pet charities, and that
the meeting would be held in Harlem, naming the evening. I told
him I would go. He came for me in his carriage, and I said:
"Governor, please do not talk to me on the way up. I was so busy
that I have had no time since I left my office this afternoon to
prepare this address, and I want every minute while we are riding
to the meeting."
The meeting was a large one. The governor took the chair and
introduced me in this original way: "Ladies and gentlemen," he
said, "I want to say about Chauncey Depew, whom I am now going
to introduce to you as the lecturer of the evening, that he is no
Demosthenes, because he can beat Demosthenes out of sight. He
prepared his speech in the carriage in which I was bringing him
up here, and he don't have, like the old Greek, to chew pebble-stones
in order to make a speech."
Governor Flower in a conservative way was a successful trader
in the stock market. When he felt he had a sure point he would
share it with a few friends. He took special delight in helping
in this way men who had little means and no knowledge of the art
of moneymaking. There were a great many benefited by his bounty.
I was dining one night with the Gridiron Club at Washington, and
before me was a plate of radishes. The newspaper man next to me
asked if I would object to having the radishes removed.
I said: "There is no odor or perfume from them. What is the
matter with the radishes?"
After they were taken away he told me his story. "Governor Flower,"
he said, "was very kind to me, as he invariably was to all newspaper
men. He asked me one day how much I had saved in my twenty years
in journalism. I told him ten thousand dollars. He said: 'That
is not enough for so long a period. Let me have the money.' So
I handed over to him my bank-account. In a few weeks he told me
that my ten thousand dollars had become twenty, and I could have
them if I wished. I said: 'No, you are doing far better than I
could. Keep it.' In about a month or more my account had grown
to thirty thousand dollars. Then the governor on a very hot day
went fishing somewhere off the Long Island coast. He was a very
large, heavy man, became overheated, and on his return drank a
lot of ice-water and ate a bunch of radishes. He died that
afternoon. There was a panic in the stocks which were his favorites
the next day, and they fell out of sight. The result was that I
lost my fortune of ten thousand dollars and also my profit of
twenty. Since then the sight of a radish makes me sick."
XVIII. FIFTY-SIX YEARS WITH THE NEW YORK CENTRAL RAILROAD COMPANY
Heredity has much to do with a man's career. The village of
Peekskill-on-the-Hudson, about forty miles from New York, was
in the early days the market-town of a large section of the
surrounding country, extending over to the State of Connecticut.
It was a farming region, and its products destined for New York City
were shipped by sloops on the Hudson from the wharfs at Peekskill,
and the return voyage brought back the merchandise required by
My father and his brother owned the majority of the sloops engaged
in this, at that time, almost the only transportation. The sloops
were succeeded by steamboats in which my people were also
interested. When Commodore Vanderbilt entered into active rivalry
with the other steamboat lines between New York and Albany, the
competition became very serious. Newer and faster boats were
rapidly built. These racers would reach the Bay of Peekskill in
the late afternoon, and the younger population of the village would
be on the banks of the river, enthusiastically applauding their
favorites. Among well-known boats whose names and achievements
excited as much interest and aroused as much partisanship and
sporting spirit as do now famous race-horses or baseball champions,
were the following: Mary Powell, Dean Ricbmond, The Alida, and
The Hendrick Hudson.
I remember as if it were yesterday when the Hudson River Railroad
had reached Peekskill, and the event was locally celebrated. The
people came in as to a county fair from fifty miles around. When
the locomotive steamed into the station many of those present had
never seen one. The engineer was continuously blowing his whistle
to emphasize the great event. This produced much consternation
and confusion among the horses, as all farmers were there with
their families in carriages or wagons.
I recall one team of young horses which were driven to frenzy;
their owner was unable to control them, but he kept them on the
road while they ran away with a wild dash over the hills. In
telling this story, as illustrating how recent is railway development
in the United States, at a dinner abroad, I stated that as far
as I knew and believed, those horses were so frightened that
they could not be stopped and were still running. A very successful
and serious-minded captain of industry among the guests sternly
rebuked me by saying: "Sir, that is impossible; horses were never
born that could run for twenty-five years without stopping."
American exaggeration was not so well known among our friends on
the other side then as it is now.
As we boys of the village were gathered on the banks of the Hudson
cheering our favorite steamers, or watching with eager interest
the movements of the trains, a frequent discussion would be about
our ambitions in life. Every young fellow would state a dream
which he hoped but never expected to be realized. I was charged
by my companions with having the greatest imagination and with
painting more pictures in the skies than any of them. This was
because I stated that in politics, for I was a great admirer of
William H. Seward, then senator from New York, I expected to be
a United States senator, and in business, because then the largest
figure in the business world was Commodore Vanderbilt, I hoped
to become president of the Hudson River Railroad. It is one of
the strangest incidents of what seemed the wild imaginings of a
village boy that in the course of long years both these expectations
When I entered the service of the railroad on the first of January,
1866, the Vanderbilt system consisted of the Hudson River and
Harlem Railroads, the Harlem ending at Chatham, 128 miles, and
the Hudson River at Albany, 140 miles long. The Vanderbilt system
now covers 20,000 miles. The total railway mileage of the whole
United States at that time was 36,000, and now it is 261,000 miles.
My connection with the New York Central Railroad covers practically
the whole period of railway construction, expansion, and development
in the United States. It is a singular evidence of the rapidity
of our country's growth and of the way which that growth has
steadily followed the rails, that all this development of States,
of villages growing into cities, of scattered communities becoming
great manufacturing centres, of an internal commerce reaching
proportions where it has greater volume than the foreign interchanges
of the whole world, has come about during a period covered by
the official career of a railroad man who is still in the service:
an attorney in 1866, a vice-president in 1882, president in 1885,
chairman of the board of directors in 1899, and still holds that office.
There is no such record in the country for continuous service with
one company, which during the whole period has been controlled by
one family. This service of more than half a century has been in
every way satisfactory. It is a pleasure to see the fourth
generation, inheriting the ability of the father, grandfather, and
great-grandfather, still active in the management.
I want to say that in thus linking my long relationship with the
railroads to this marvellous development, I do not claim to have
been better than the railway officers who during this time have
performed their duties to the best of their ability. I wish also
to pay tribute to the men of original genius, of vision and daring,
to whom so much is due in the expansion and improvement of the
American railway systems.
Commodore Vanderbilt was one of the most remarkable men our
country has produced. He was endowed with wonderful foresight,
grasp of difficult situations, ability to see opportunities before
others, to solve serious problems, and the courage of his
convictions. He had little education or early advantages, but
was eminently successful in everything he undertook. As a boy on
Staten Island he foresaw that upon transportation depended the
settlement, growth, and prosperity of this nation. He began with
a small boat running across the harbor from Staten Island to
New York. Very early in his career he acquired a steamboat and
in a few years was master of Long Island Sound. He then extended
his operations to the Hudson River and speedily acquired the
dominating ownership in boats competing between New York and Albany.
When gold was discovered in California he started a line on the
Atlantic side of the Isthmus of Darien and secured from the
government of Nicaragua the privilege of crossing the Isthmus
for a transportation system through its territory, and then
established a line of steamers on the Pacific to San Francisco.
In a short time the old-established lines, both on the Atlantic
and the Pacific, were compelled to sell out to him. Then he
entered the transatlantic trade, with steamers to Europe.
With that vision which is a gift and cannot be accounted for, he
decided that the transportation work of the future was on land
and in railroads. He abandoned the sea, and his first enterprise
was the purchase of the New York and Harlem Railroad, which was
only one hundred and twenty-eight miles long. The road was bankrupt
and its road-bed and equipment going from bad to worse. The
commodore reconstructed the line, re-equipped it, and by making
it serviceable to its territory increased its traffic and turned
its business from deficiency into profit. This was in 1864.
The commodore became president, and his son, William H. Vanderbilt,
vice-president. He saw that the extension of the Harlem was not
advisable, and so secured the Hudson River Railroad, running from
New York to Albany, and became its president in 1865. It was
a few months after this when he and his son invited me to become
a member of their staff.
The station of the Harlem Railroad in the city of New York was
at that time at Fourth Avenue and Twenty-sixth Street, and that of
the Hudson River Railroad at Chambers Street, near the North River.
In a few years William H. Vanderbilt purchased the ground for the
Harlem Railroad Company, where is now located the Grand Central
Terminal, and by the acquisition by the New York Central and
Hudson River Railroad of the Harlem Railroad the trains of the
New York Central were brought around into the Grand Central Station.
In 1867, two years after Mr. Vanderbilt had acquired the
Hudson River Railroad, he secured the control of the New York
Central, which ran from Albany to Buffalo. This control was
continued through the Lake Shore on one side of the lakes and
the Michigan Central on the other to Chicago. Subsequently the
Vanderbilt System was extended to Cincinnati and St. Louis. It
was thus in immediate connection with the West and Northwest
centering in Chicago, and the Southwest at Cincinnati and St. Louis.
By close connection and affiliation with the Chicago and Northwestern
Railway Company, the Vanderbilt system was extended beyond
to Mississippi. I became director in the New York Central in
1874 and in the Chicago and Northwestern in 1877.
It has been my good fortune to meet with more or less intimacy
many of the remarkable men in every department of life, but I think
Commodore Vanderbilt was the most original. I had been well
acquainted for some years both with the commodore and his son,
William H. When I became attorney my relations were more intimate
than those usually existing. I was in daily consultation with the
commodore during the ten years prior to his death, and with his
son from 1866 to 1885, when he died.
The commodore was constantly, because of his wealth and power,
importuned by people who wished to interest him in their schemes.
Most of the great and progressive enterprises of his time were
presented to him. He would listen patiently, ask a few questions,
and in a short time grasp the whole subject. Then with wonderful
quickness and unerring judgment he would render his decision.
No one knew by what process he arrived at these conclusions.
They seemed to be the results as much of inspiration as of insight.
The Civil War closed in 1865, and one of its lessons had been
the necessity for more railroads. The country had discovered
that without transportation its vast and fertile territories could
neither be populated nor made productive. Every mile of railroad
carried settlers, opened farms and increased the national resources
and wealth. The economical and critical conditions of the country,
owing to the expansion of the currency and banking conditions,
facilitated and encouraged vast schemes of railroad construction.
This and a wild speculation resulted in the panic of 1873. Nearly
the whole country went bankrupt. The recovery was rapid, and
the constructive talent of the Republic saw that the restoration of
credit and prosperity must be led by railway solvency. In August,
1874, Commodore Vanderbilt invited the representatives of the
other and competitive lines to a conference at Saratoga. Owing,
however, to the jealousies and hostilities of the period, only the
New York Central, the Pennsylvania, and the Erie railways were
The eastern railway situation was then dominated by Commodore
Vanderbilt, Colonel Thomas A. Scott, of the Pennsylvania, and
John W. Garrett, of the Baltimore and Ohio. Both Scott and Garrett
were original men and empire builders. There was neither
governmental nor State regulation. The head of a railway system
had practically unlimited power in the operation of his road.
The people were so anxious for the construction of railways that
they offered every possible inducement to capital. The result was
a great deal of unprofitable construction and immense losses to
These able men saw that there was no possibility of railway
construction, operation, and efficiency, with a continuance of
unrestricted competition. It has taken from 1874 until 1920 to
educate the railway men, the shippers, and the government to a
realization of the fact that transportation facilities required
for the public necessities can only be had by the freest operations
and the strictest government regulations; that the solution of
the problem is a system so automatic that public arbitration shall
decide the justice of the demands of labor, and rates be advanced
to meet the decision, and that public authority also shall take
into consideration the other factors of increased expenses and
adequate facilities for the railroads, and that maintenance and
the highest efficiency must be preserved and also necessary
extensions. To satisfy and attract capital there must be the
assurance of a reasonable return upon the investment.
The meeting called by Commodore Vanderbilt in 1874, at Saratoga,
was an epoch-making event. We must remember the railway management
of the country was in the absolute control of about four men, two
of whom were also largest owners of the lines they managed.
Fierce competition and cutting of rates brought on utter
demoralization among shippers, who could not calculate on the cost
of transportation, and great favoritism to localities and individuals
by irresponsible freight agents who controlled the rates. Under
these influences railway earnings were fluctuating and uncertain.
Improvements were delayed and the people on the weaker lines
threatened with bankruptcy.
Public opinion, however, believed this wild competition to be the
only remedy for admitted railway evils. As an illustration of
the change of public opinion and the better understanding of
the railway problems, this occurred in the month of October, 1920.
A committee of shippers and producers representing the farmers,
manufacturers, and business men along a great railway system
came to see the manager of the railroad and said to him: "We have
been all wrong in the past. Our effort has always been for lower
rates, regardless of the necessities of the railways. We have
tried to get them by seeking bids from competing lines for our
shipments and by appealing to the Interstate Commerce Commission.
The expenses of the railroads have been increased by demands of
labor, by constantly rising prices and cost of rails, cars,
terminals, and facilities, but we have been against allowing the
railroads to meet this increased cost of operation by adequate
advances in rates. We now see that this course was starving the
railroads, and we are suffering for want of cars and locomotives
to move our traffic and terminals to care for it. We are also
suffering because the old treatment of the railroads has frightened
capital so that the roads cannot get money to maintain their lines
and make necessary improvements to meet the demands of business.
We know now that rates make very little difference, because they
can be absorbed in our business. What we must have is facilities
to transport our products, and we want to help the railroads to get
money and credit, and again we emphasize our whole trouble is
want of cars, locomotives, and terminal facilities."
Happily, public opinion was reflected in the last Congress in the
passage of the Cummins-Esch bill, which is the most enlightened
and adaptable legislation of the last quarter of a century.
To return to the conference at Saratoga, the New York Central,
the Pennsylvania, and the Erie came to the conclusion that they
must have the co-operation of the Baltimore and Ohio. As
Mr. Garrett, president and controlling owner of that road, would
not come to the conference, the members decided that the emergency
was so great that they must go to him. This was probably the most
disagreeable thing Commodore Vanderbilt ever did. The marvellous
success of his wonderful life had been won by fighting and defeating
competitors. The peril was so great that they went as associates,
and the visit interested the whole country and so enlarged
Mr. Garrett's opinion of his power that he rejected their offer
and said he would act independently. A railway war immediately
followed, and in a short time bankruptcy threatened all lines,
and none more than the Baltimore and Ohio.
The trunk lines then got together and entered into an agreement
to stabilize rates and carry them into effect. They appointed
as commissioner Mr. Albert Fink, one of the ablest railway men
of that time. Mr. Fink's administration was successful, but the
rivalries and jealousies of the lines and the frequent breaking
of agreements were too much for one man.
The presidents and general managers of all the railroads east of
Chicago then met and formed an association, and this association
was a legislative body without any legal authority to enforce its
decrees. It had, however, two effects: the disputes which arose
were publicly discussed, and the merits of each side so completely
demonstrated that the decision of the association came to be
accepted as just and right. Then the verdict of the association
had behind it the whole investment and banking community and the
press. The weight of this was sufficient to compel obedience to
its decisions by the most rebellious member. No executive could
continue to hold his position while endeavoring to break up
It is one of the most gratifying events of my life that my associates
in this great and powerful association elected me their president,
and I continued in office until the Supreme Court in a momentous
decision declared that the railroads came under the provision of
the Sherman Anti-Trust Law and dissolved these associations in
the East, West, and South.
It was a liberal education of the railway problems to meet the
men who became members of this association. Most of them left
an indelible impression upon the railway conditions of the time
and of the railway policies of the future. All were executives
of great ability and several rare constructive geniuses.
In our system there was John Newell, president of the Lake Shore
and Michigan Southern, a most capable and efficient manager.
Henry B. Ledyard, president of the Michigan Central, was admirably
trained for the great responsibilities which he administered so
well. There was William Bliss, president of the Boston and Albany,
who had built up a line to be one of the strongest of the
New England group.
Melville E. Ingalls, president of the Cleveland, Cincinnati,
Chicago and St. Louis, had combined various weak and bankrupt
roads and made them an efficient organization. He had also
rehabilitated and put in useful working and paying condition the
Chesapeake and Ohio.
Ingalls told me a very good story of himself. He had left the
village in Maine, where he was born, and after graduation from
college and admission to the bar had settled in Boston. To protect
the interests of his clients he had moved to Cincinnati, Ohio,
and rescued railroad properties in which they were interested.
When his success was complete and he had under his control a large
and successfully working railway system, he made a visit to
One evening he went down to the store where the village congress
was assembled, sitting on the barrels and the counter. They
welcomed him very cordially, and then an inquisitive farmer said
to him: "Melville, it is reported around here that you are getting
a salary of nigh unto ten thousand dollars a year."
Mr. Ingalls, who was getting several times that amount, modestly
admitted the ten, which was a prodigious sum in that rural
neighborhood. Whereupon the old farmer voiced the local sentiment
by saying: "Well, Melville that shows what cheek and circumstances
can do for a man."
I recall an incident connected with one of the ablest of the
executives in our system. One day we had a conference of rival
interests, and many executives were there in the effort to secure
an adjustment. For this purpose we had an arbitrator. After a
most exhausting day in the battle of wits and experience for
advantages, I arrived home used up, but after a half-hour's sleep
I awoke refreshed and, consulting my diary, found I was down for
a speech at a banquet at Delmonico's that night.
I arrived late, the intervening time being devoted to intensive
and rapid preparation. I was called early. The speech attracted
attention and occupied a column in the morning's papers. I was
in bed at eleven o'cIock and had between seven and eight hours'
On arriving at our meeting-place the next morning, one of the
best-known presidents took me aside and said: "Chauncey, by
making speeches such as you did last night you are losing the
confidence of the people. They say you cannot prepare such
speeches and give proper attention to your business."
"Well," I said to him, "my friend, did I lose anything before the
He answered very angrily: "No, you gained entirely too much."
"Well," I then said, "I am very fresh this morning. But what did
you do last night?"
He answered that he was so exhausted that he went to DeImonico's
and ordered the best dinner possible. Then he went on to say:
"A friend told me a little game was going on up-stairs, and in
a close room filled with tobacco smoke I played poker until two
o'clock and drank several high-balls. The result is, I think we
better postpone this meeting, for I do not feel like doing
"My dear friend," I said, "you will get the credit of giving your
whole time to business, while I am by doing what refreshes my mind
discredited, because it gets in the papers. I shall keep my
method regardless of consequences."
He kept his, and although much younger than myself died years ago.
George B. Roberts, president of the Pennsylvania, was a very wise
executive and of all-around ability. Frank Thompson, vice-president
and afterwards president of the same road, was one of the ablest
operating officers of his time and a most delightful personality.
Mr. A. J. Cassatt was a great engineer and possessed rare foresight
and vision. He brought the Pennsylvania into New York City through
a tunnel under the Hudson River, continued the tunnel across the
city to the East River and then under the river to connect with the
Long Island, which he had acquired for his system.
D. W. Caldwell, president of the New York, Chicago, and St. Louis,
added to railway ability wit and humor. He told a good story on
Mr. George Roberts. Caldwell was at one time division superintendent
under President Roberts. He had obtained permission to build a new
station-house, in whose plan and equipment he was deeply interested.
It was Mr. Roberts's habit, by way of showing his subordinates
that he was fully aware of their doings, to either add or take away
something from their projects.
Caldwell prepared a station-house according to his ideas, and,
to prevent Roberts from making any essential changes he added
an unnecessary bay window to the front of the passengers' room.
Roberts carefully examined the plans and said: "Remove that bay
window," and then approved the plan, and Caldwell had what
Caldwell used to tell of another occasion when on a Western line
he had over him a very severe and harsh disciplinarian as president.
This president was a violent prohibitionist and had heard that
Caldwell was a bonvivant. He sent for Caldwell to discipline or
discharge him. After a long and tiresome journey Caldwell arrived
at the president's house. His first greeting was: "Mr. Caldwell,
do you drink?"
Caldwell, wholly unsuspicious, answered: "Thank you, Mr. President,
I am awfully tired and will take a little rye."
Mr. E. B. Thomas, president of the Lehigh Valley, was a valuable
member of the association. The Baltimore and Ohio, as usual, had
its president, Mr. Charles F. Mayer, accompanied by an able staff.
The Erie was represented by one of the most capable and genial
of its many presidents, Mr. John King.
King was a capital story-teller, and among them I remember this
one: At one time he was general manager of the Baltimore and Ohio
under John W. Garrett. In order to raise money for his projected
extensions, Garrett had gone to Europe. The times were financially
very difficult. Johns Hopkins, the famous philanthropist, died.
His immortal monument is the Johns Hopkins University and Medical
School. Everybody in Baltimore attended the funeral. Among the
leading persons present was another John King, a banker, who was
Hopkins's executor. A messenger-boy rushed in with a cable for
John King, and handed it to John King, the executor, who sat at
the head of the mourners. He read it and then passed it along
so that each one could read it until it reached John King, of the
Baltimore and Ohio, who sat at the foot of the line. The cable
read as follows: "Present my sympathies to the family and my high
appreciation of Mr. Johns Hopkins, and borrow from the executor
all you can at five per cent. Garrett."
Commodore Vanderbilt was succeeded in the presidency by his son,
William H. Vanderbilt, who was then past forty years old and had
been a successful farmer on Staten Island. He was active in
neighborhood affairs and in politics. This brought him in close
contact with the people and was of invaluable benefit to him when
he became president of a great railroad corporation. He also
acquired familiarity in railway management as a director of one
on Staten Island.
Mr. William H. Vanderbilt was a man of great ability, and his
education made him in many ways an abler man than his father
for the new conditions he had to meet. But, like many a capable
son of a famous father, he did not receive the credit which was
due him because of the overshadowing reputation of the commodore.
Nevertheless, on several occasions he exhibited the highest
One of the great questions of the time was the duty of railroads
to the cities in which they terminated, and the decision of the
roads south of New York to have lower rates to Philadelphia and
Baltimore. New York felt so secure in the strength of its unrivalled
harbor and superior shipping facilities that the merchants and
financiers were not alarmed. Very soon, however, there was such
a diversion of freight from New York as to threaten very seriously
its export trade and the superiority of its port. The commercial
leaders of the city called upon Mr. Vanderbilt, who after the
conference said to them: "I will act in perfect harmony with you
and will see that the New York Central Railroad protects New York City
regardless of the effect upon its finances." The city representatives
said: "That is very fine, and we will stand together."
Mr. Vanderbilt immediately issued a statement that the rates to
the seaboard should be the same to all ports, and that the
New York Central would meet the lowest rates to any port by
putting the same in effect on its own lines. The result was
the greatest railroad war since railroads began to compete.
Rates fell fifty per cent, and it was a question of the survival
of the fittest. Commerce returned to New York, and the competing
railroads, to avoid bankruptcy, got together and formed the
Trunk Line Association.
New York City has not always remembered how intimately bound is
its prosperity with that of the great railroad whose terminal is
within its city limits. Mr. Vanderbilt found that the railroad and
its management were fiercely assailed in the press, in the
legislature, and in municipal councils. He became convinced that
no matter how wise or just or fair the railroad might be in the
interests of every community and every business which were so
dependent upon its transportation, the public would not submit to
any great line being owned by one man. The Vanderbilt promptness
in arriving at a decision was immediately shown. He called upon
Mr. Pierpont Morgan, and through him a syndicate, which Morgan
formed, took and sold the greater part of Mr. Vanderbilt's
New York Central stock. The result was that the New York Central
from that time was owned by the public. It is a tribute to the
justice and fairness of the Vanderbilt management that though the
management has been submitted every year since to a stockholders'
vote, there has practically never been any opposition to a
continuance of the Vanderbilt policy and management.
Among the most important of the many problems during Mr. Vanderbilt's
presidency was the question of railway commissions, both in national
and State governments. In my professional capacity of general
counsel, and in common with representatives of other railroads,
I delivered argumentative addresses against them. The discussions
converted me, and I became convinced of their necessity. The
rapidly growing importance of railway transportation had created
the public opinion that railway management should be under the
control and supervision of some public body; that all passengers
or shippers, or those whose land was taken for construction and
development, should have an appeal from the decision of the railway
managers to the government through a government commission.
As soon as I was convinced that commissions were necessary for
the protection of both the public and the railroads, I presented
this view to Mr. Vanderbilt. The idea was contrary to his education,
training, and opinion. It seemed to me that it was either a
commission or government ownership, and that the commission, if
strengthened as a judicial body, would be as much of a protection
to the bond and stock holders and the investing public as to the
general public and the employees. Mr. Vanderbilt, always
open-minded, adopted this view and supported the commission system
and favored legislation in its behalf.
In 1883 Mr. Vanderbilt decided, on account of illness, to retire
from the presidency, and Mr. James H. Rutter was elected his
successor. Mr. Rutter was the ablest freight manager in the
country, but his health gave way under the exactions of executive
duties, and I acted largely for him during his years of service.
He died early in 1885, and I was elected president.
The war with the West Shore had been on for several years, with
disastrous results to both companies. The Ontario and Western,
which had large terminal facilities near Jersey City on the west
side of the Hudson, ran for fifty miles along the river before
turning into the interior. At its reorganization it had ten millions
of cash in the treasury. With this as a basis, its directors
decided to organize a new railroad, to be called the West Shore,
and parallel the New York Central through its entire length to
Buffalo. As the New York Central efficiently served this whole
territory, the only business the West Shore could get must be
taken away from the Central. To attract this business it offered
at all stations lower rates. To retain and hold its business the
New York Central met those rates at all points so that financially
the West Shore went into the hands of a receiver.
The New York Central was sustained because of its superior
facilities and connections and established roadway and equipment.
But all new and necessary construction was abandoned, maintenance
was neglected, and equipment run down under forced reduction of
I had very friendly personal relations with the managers and
officers of the West Shore, and immediately presented to them
a plan for the absorption of their line, instead of continuing
the struggle until absolute exhaustion. Mr. Vanderbilt approved
of the plan, as did the financial interests represented by
Mr. Pierpont Morgan.
By the reorganization and consolidation of the two companies the
New York Central began gradually to establish its efficiency and
to work on necessary improvements. As evidence of the growth
of the railway business of the country, the New York Central
proper has added since the reorganization an enormous amount of
increased trackage, and has practically rebuilt, as a necessary
second line, the West Shore and used fully its very large terminal
facilities on the Jersey side of the Hudson.
During his active life Mr. Vanderbilt was very often importuned
to buy a New York daily newspaper. He was personally bitterly
assailed and his property put in peril by attacks in the press.
He always rejected the proposition to buy one. "If," he said,
"I owned a newspaper, I would have all the others united in
attacking me, and they would ruin me, but by being utterly out of
the journalistic field, I find that taking the press as a whole
I am fairly well treated. I do not believe any great interest
dealing with the public can afford to have an organ."
Colonel Scott, of the Pennsylvania, thought otherwise, but the
result of his experiment demonstrated the accuracy of Mr. Vanderbilt's
judgment. Scott selected as editor of the New York World one of
the most brilliant journalistic writers of his time, William H. Hurlburt.
When it became known, however, that the World belonged to
Colonel Scott, Hurlburt's genius could not save it. The circulation
ran down to a minimum, the advertising followed suit, and the
paper was losing enormously every month. Mr. Joseph Pulitzer,
with the rare insight and foresight which distinguished him, saw
what could be made of the World, with its privileges in the
Associated Press, and so he paid Scott the amount he had originally
invested, and took over and made a phenomenal success of this
bankrupt and apparently hopeless enterprise.
I tried during my presidency to make the New York Central popular
with the public without impairing its efficiency. The proof of the
success of this was that without any effort on my part and against
my published wishes the New York delegation in the national
Republican convention in 1888, with unprecedented unanimity
presented me as New York's candidate for president. I retired
from the contest because of the intense hostility to railroad men
in the Western States. Those States could not understand how
this hostility, which they had to railroads and everybody connected
with them, had disappeared in the great State of New York.
During my presidency the labor question was very acute and strikes,
one after another, common. The universal method of meeting the
demands of labor at that time was to have a committee of employees
or a leader present the grievances to the division superintendent
or the superintendent of motive power. These officers were
arbitrary and hostile, as the demands, if acceded to, led to an
increase of expenses which would make them unpopular with the
management. They had a difficult position. The employees often
came to the conclusion that the only way for them to compel the
attention of the higher officers and directors was to strike.
Against the judgment of my associates in the railway management
I decided to open my doors to any individual or committee of the
company. At first I was overwhelmed with petty grievances, but
when the men understood that their cases would be immediately heard
and acted upon, they decided among themselves not to bring to me
any matters unless they regarded them of vital importance. In
this way many of the former irritations, which led ultimately to
serious results, no longer appeared.
I had no trouble with labor unions, and found their representatives
in heart-to-heart talks very generally reasonable. Mr. Arthur,
chief of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, had many of
the qualities of a statesman. He built up his organization to be
the strongest of its kind among the labor unions. I enjoyed his
confidence and friendship for many years.
There never was but one strike on the New York Central during
my administration, and that one occurred while I was absent in
Europe. Its origin and sequel were somewhat dramatic. I had
nearly broken down by overwork, and the directors advised me to
take an absolute rest and a trip abroad.
I sent word over the line that I wanted everything settled before
leaving, and to go without care. A large committee appeared in
my office a few mornings after. To my surprise there was a
representative from every branch of the service, passenger and
freight conductors, brakemen, shopmen, yardmen, switchmen, and
so forth. These had always come through their local unions.
I rapidly took up and adjusted what each one of the representatives
of his order claimed, and then a man said: "I represent the
My response was: "You have no business here, and I will have
nothing to do with you. I will see no one of the locomotive
engineers, except their accredited chief officer."
"Well," he said, "Mr. President, there is a new condition on
the road, a new order of labor called the Knights of Labor. We
are going to absorb all the other unions and have only one. The
only obstacle in the way is the locomotive engineers, who refuse
to give up their brotherhood and come in with us, but if you will
recognize us only, that will force them to join. Now, the Brotherhood
intends to present a demand very soon, and if you will recognize
our order, the Knights of Labor, and not the Brotherhood of
Locomotive Engineers, we will take care of what they demand and
all others from every department for two years, and you can take
your trip to Europe in perfect peace of mind. If you do not do
this there will be trouble."
I declined to deal with them as representatives of the Brotherhood
of Locomotive Engineers. Then their spokesman said: "As this
is so serious to you, we will give you to-night to think it over
and come back in the morning."
I immediately sent for the superintendent of motive power and
directed him to have posted by telegraph in every roundhouse that
the request of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, of which
this committee had told me, had been granted. The next morning
the committee returned, and their leader said: "Well, Mr. President,
you have beaten us and we are going home."
Then I appealed to them, saying: "I am a pretty badly broken-up
man. The doctors tell me that if I can have three months without
care I will be as good as ever. You must admit that I have at
all times been absolutely square with you and tried to adjust
fairly the matters you have brought to me. Now, will you take
care of me while I am absent?"
They answered unanimously: "Mr. President, we will, and you can
be confident there will be no trouble on the New York Central while
you are away."
I sailed with my mind free from anxiety, hopeful and happy, leaving
word to send me no cables or letters. After a visit to the
Passion Play at Ober-Ammergau in Upper Bavaria, I went into the
Austrian Tyrol. One night, at a hotel in Innsbruck, Mr. Graves,
a very enterprising reporter of a New York paper, suddenly burst
into my room and said: "I have been chasing you all over Europe
for an interview on the strike on the New York Central." This
was my first information of the strike.
As soon as I had left New York and was on the ocean, the young
and ambitious officers who were at the head of the operations of
the railroad and disapproved of my method of dealing with the
employees, discharged every member of the committee who had
called upon me. Of course, this was immediately followed by a
sympathetic outburst in their behalf, and the sympathizers were
also discharged. Then the whole road was tied up by a universal
strike. After millions had been lost in revenue by the railroad
and in wages by the men, the strike was settled, as usual, by a
compromise, but it gave to the Knights of Labor the control, except
as to the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. The early settlement
of the strike was largely due to the loyalty and courage of
During my presidency I was much criticised by the public, but
never by the directors of the company, because of my activities
in politics and on the platform. For some time, when the duties
of my office became most onerous, and I was in the habit of working
all day and far into the night, I discovered that this concentrated
attention to my railroad problems and intense and continuous
application to their solution was not only impairing my efficiency
but my health. As I was not a sport, and never had time for games
or horses, I decided to try a theory, which was that one's daily
duties occupied certain cells of the brain while the others
remained idle; that the active cells became tired by overwork
while others lost their power in a measure by idleness; that if,
after a reasonable use of the working cells, you would engage
in some other intellectual occupation, it would furnish as much
relief or recreation as outdoor exercise of any kind. I had a
natural facility for quick and easy preparation for public speaking,
and so adopted that as my recreation. The result proved entirely
After a hard day's work, on coming home late in the afternoon,
I accustomed myself to take a short nap of about fifteen minutes.
Then I would look over my tablets to see if any engagement was
on to speak in the evening, and, if so, the preparation of the
speech might be easy, or, if difficult, cause me to be late at
dinner. These speeches were made several times a week, and mainly
at banquets on closing of the sessions of conventions of trade
organizations of the country. The reciprocaI favors and friendship
of these delegates transferred to the New York Central a large
amount of competitive business.
While I was active in politics I issued strict orders that every
employee should have the same liberty, and that any attempt on
the part of their superior officers to influence or direct the
political action of a subordinate would be cause for dismissal.
This became so well known that the following incident, which was
not uncommon, will show the result.
As I was taking the train the morning after having made a political
speech at Utica, the yardmaster, an Irishman, greeted me very
cordially and then said: "We were all up to hear ye last night,
boss, but this year we are agin ye."
The position which this activity gave me in my own party, and the
fact that, unlike most employers, I protected the employees in
their liberty and political action, gave me immense help in
protecting the company from raids and raiders.
We had a restaurant in the station at Utica which had deteriorated.
The situation was called to my attention in order to have the evils
corrected by the receipt of the following letter from an indignant
passenger: "Dear Mr. President: You are the finest after-dinner
speaker in the world. I would give a great deal to hear the speech
you would make after you had dined in the restaurant in your
station at Utica."
After thirteen years of service as president I was elected chairman of
the board of directors. Mr. Samuel R. Callaway succeeded me as
president, and on his resignation was succeeded by Mr. William H. Newman,
and upon his resignation Mr. W. C. Brown became president.
Following Mr. Brown, Mr. Alfred H. Smith was elected and is still
in office. All these officers were able and did excellent service,
but I want to pay special tribute to Mr. Smith.
Mr. Smith is one of the ablest operating officers of his time.
When the United States Government took over the railroads he was
made regional director of the government for railroads in this
territory. He received the highest commendation from the government
and from the owners of the railroads for the admirable way in
which he had maintained them and their efficiency during the
On the surrender of the railroads by the government, Mr. Smith was
welcomed back by his directors to the presidency of the New York Central.
The splendid condition of the Central and its allied lines is
largely due to him. During his service as regional director the
difficult task of the presidency of the New York Central was very
ably performed by Mr. William K. Vanderbilt, Jr. Though the
youngest among the executive officers of the railroads of the
country, he was at the same time one of the best.
Among the efficient officers who have served the New York Central
during the time I have been with the company, I remember many on
account of their worth and individuality. H. Walter Webb came
into the railway service from an active business career. With
rare intelligence and industry he rapidly rose in the organization
and was a very capable and efficient officer. There was
Theo. Voorhees, the general superintendent, an unusually young
man for such a responsible position. He was a graduate of
Troy PoIytechnical School and a very able operating officer.
Having gone directly from the college to a responsible position,
he naturally did not understand or know how to handle men until
after long experience. He showed that want of experience in a
very drastic way in the strike of 1892 and its settlement. Being
very arbitrary, he had his own standards. For instance, I was
appealed to by many old brakemen and conductors whom he had
discharged. I mention one particularly, who had been on the road
for twenty-five years. Voorhees's answer to me was: "These old
employees are devoted to Toucey, my predecessor, and for efficient
work I must have loyalty to me."
I reversed his order and told him I would begin to discharge, if
necessary, the latest appointments, including himself, keeping
the older men in the service who had proved their loyalty to the
company by the performance of their duties.
Mr. Voorhees became afterwards vice-president and then president
of the Philadelphia and Reading. With experience added to his
splendid equipment and unusual ability he became one of the best
executives in the country.
Mr. John M. Toucey, who had come up from the bottom to be general
superintendent and general manager, was a hard student. His close
contact with his fellow employees gave him wonderful control over
men. He supplemented his practical experience by hard study and
was very well educated. Though self-taught, he had no confidence
in the graduates of the professional schools.
In selecting an assistant, one of them told me that Toucey subjected
him to a rigid examination and then said: "What is your
"I began at the bottom," answered the assistant, "and have filled
every office on my old road up to division superintendent, which
I have held for so many years."
"That is very fine," said Toucey, "but are you a graduate of the
Troy Technical School?"
"Of the Stevens Tech.?"
"Of Massachusetts Tech.?"
"Then you are engaged," said Toucey.
Mr. Toucey was well up-to-date, and differed from a superintendent
on another road in which I was a director. The suburban business
of that line had increased very rapidly, but there were not enough
trains or cars to accommodate the passengers. The overcrowding
caused many serious discomforts. I had the superintendent called
before the board of directors, and said to him: "Why don't you
immediately put on more trains and cars?"
"Why, Mr. Depew," he answered, "what would be the use? They are
settling so fast along the line that the people would fill them up
and overcrowd them just as before."
I was going over the line on an important tour at one time with
G. H. Burroughs, superintendent of the Western Division. We were
on his pony engine, with seats at the front, alongside the boiler,
so that we could look directly on the track. Burroughs sat on
one side and I on the other. He kept on commenting aloud by way
of dictating to his stenographer, who sat behind him, and praise
and criticism followed rapidly. I heard him utter in his monotonous
way: "Switch misplaced, we will all be in hell in a minute," and
then a second afterwards continue: "We jumped the switch and
are on the track again. Discharge that switchman."
Major Zenas Priest was for fifty years a division superintendent.
It was a delightful experience to go with him over his division.
He knew everybody along the line, was general confidant in their
family troubles and arbiter in neighborhood disputes. He knew
personally every employee and his characteristics and domestic
situation. The wives were generally helping him to keep their
husbands from making trouble. To show his control and efficiency,
he was always predicting labor troubles and demonstrating that
the reason they did not occur was because of the way in which
he handled the situation.
Mr. C. M. Bissell was a very efficient superintendent, and for
a long time in charge of the Harlem Railroad. He told me this
incident. We decided to put in effect as a check upon the
conductors a system by which a conductor, when a fare was paid
on the train, must tear from a book a receipt which he gave to
the passenger, and mark the amount on the stub from which the
receipt was torn. Soon after a committee of conductors called
upon Mr. Bissell and asked for an increase of pay. "Why," Bissell
asked, "boys, why do you ask for that now?"
After a rather embarrassing pause the oldest conductor said:
"Mr. Bissell, you have been a conductor yourself."
This half century and six years during which I have been in the
service of the New York Central Railroad has been a time of
unusual pleasure and remarkably free from friction or trouble.
In this intimate association with the railroad managers of the
United States I have found the choicest friendships and the most
enduring. The railroad manager is rarely a large stockholder,
but he is a most devoted and efficient officer of his company.
He gives to its service, for the public, the employees, the
investors, and the company, all that there is in him. In too many
instances, because these officers do not get relief from their labor
by variation of their work, they die exhausted before their time.
The story graphically told by one of the oldest and ablest of
railroad men, Mr. Marvin Hughitt, for a long time president and
now chairman of the Chicago and Northwestern Railway, illustrates
what the railroad does for the country. Twenty-five years ago the
Northwestern extended its lines through Northern Iowa. Mr. Hughitt
drove over the proposed extension on a buckboard. The country
was sparsely settled because the farmers could not get their
products to market, and the land was selling at six dollars per acre.
In a quarter of a century prosperous villages and cities had grown
up along the line, and farms were selling at over three hundred
dollars per acre. While this enormous profit from six dollars
per acre to over three hundred has come to the settlers who held
on to their farms because of the possibilities produced by the
railroad, the people whose capital built the road must remain
satisfied with a moderate return by way of dividend and interest,
and without any enhancement of their capital, but those investors
should be protected by the State and the people to whom their
capital expenditures have been such an enormous benefit.
XIX. RECOLLECTIONS FROM ABROAD
I know of nothing more delightful for a well-read American than
to visit the scenes in Great Britain with which he has become
familiar in his reading. No matter how rapidly he may travel,
if he goes over the places made memorable by Sir Walter Scott
in the "Waverley Novels," and in his poems, he will have had
impressions, thrills, and educational results which will be a
pleasure for the rest of his life. The same is true of an ardent
admirer of Dickens or of Thackeray, in following the footsteps
of their heroes and heroines. I gained a liberal education and
lived over again the reading and studies of a lifetime in my visits
to England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. I also had much the
same experience of vivifying and spiritualizing my library in
France, Italy, Germany, Belgium, and Holland.
London is always most hospitable and socially the most delightful
of cities. While Mr. Gladstone was prime minister and more in
the eyes of the world than any statesman of any country, a dinner
was given to him with the special object of having me meet him.
The ladies and gentlemen at the dinner were all people of note.
Among them were two American bishops. The arrangement made by
the host and hostess was that when the ladies left the dining-room
I should take the place made vacant alongside Mr. Gladstone, but
one of the American bishops, who in his younger days was a famous
athlete, made a flying leap for that chair and no sooner landed
than he at once proposed to Mr. Gladstone this startling question:
"As the bishop of the old Catholic Church in Germany does not
recognize the authority of the pope, how can he receive absolution?"
--and some other abstruse theological questions. This at once
aroused Mr. Gladstone, who, when once started, was stopped with
difficulty, and there was no pause until the host announced that
the gentlemen should join the ladies. I made it a point at the
next dinner given for me to meet Mr. Gladstone that there should
be no American bishops present.
At another time, upon arriving at my hotel in London from New York,
I found a note from Lord Rosebery saying that Mr. Gladstone was
dining with Lady Rosebery and himself that evening, and there
would be no other guests, and inviting me to come. I arrived early
and found Mr. Gladstone already there. While the custom in London
society then was for the guests to be late, Mr. Gladstone was
always from fifteen minutes to half an hour in advance of the time
set by his invitation. He greeted me with great cordiality, and
at once what were known as the Gladstone tentacles were fastened
on me for information. It was a peculiarity with the grand old
man that he extracted from a stranger practically all the man knew,
and the information was immediately assimilated in his wonderful
mind. He became undoubtedly the best-informed man on more subjects
than anybody in the world.
Mr. Gladstone said to me: "It has been raining here for forty days.
What is the average rainfall in the United States and in New York?"
If there was any subject about which I knew less than another, it
was the meteorological conditions in America. He then continued
with great glee: "Our friend, Lord Rosebery, has everything and
knows everything, so it is almost impossible to find for him
something new. Great books are common, but I have succeeded
in my explorations among antiquarian shops in discovering the most
idiotic book that ever was written. It was by an old lord mayor of
London, who filled a volume with his experiences in an excursion
on the Thames, which is the daily experience of every Englishman."
To the disappointment of Mr. Gladstone, Lord Rosebery also had
that book. The evening was a memorable one for me.
After a most charming time and dinner, while Lord Rosebery went
off to meet an engagement to speak at a meeting of colonial
representatives, Lady Rosebery took Mr. Gladstone and myself
to the opera at Covent Garden. There was a critical debate on
in the House of Commons, and the whips were running in to inform
him of the progress of the battle and to get instructions from
the great leader.
During the entr'actes Mr. Gladstone most interestingly talked of
his sixty years' experience of the opera. He knew all the great
operas of that period, and criticised with wonderful skill the
composers and their characteristics. He gave a word picture of
all the great artists who had appeared on the English stage and
the merits and demerits of each. A stranger listening to him would
have said that a veteran musical critic, who had devoted his life
to that and nothing else, was reminiscing. He said that thirty
years before the manager of Covent Garden had raised the pitch,
that this had become so difficult that most of the artists, to reach
it, used the tremolo, and that the tremolo had taken away from him
the exquisite pleasure which he formerly had in listening to an opera.
Mr. Gladstone was at that time the unquestionable master of the
House of Commons and its foremost orator. I unfortunately never
heard him at his best, but whether the question was of greater
or lesser importance, the appearance of Mr. Gladstone at once
lifted it above ordinary discussion to high debate.
Mr. Gladstone asked many questions about large fortunes in the
United States, was curious about the methods of their accumulation,
and whether they survived in succeeding generations. He wanted
to know all about the reputed richest man among them. I told him
I did not know the amount of his wealth, but that it was at least
one hundred millions of dollars.
"How invested?" he asked.
I answered: "All in fluid securities which could be turned into
cash in a short time."
He became excited at that and said: "Such a man is dangerous
not only to his own country but to the world. With that amount
of ready money he could upset the exchanges and paralyze the
borrowing power of nations."
"But," I said, "you have enormous fortunes," and mentioned the
Duke of Westminster.
"I know every pound of Westminster's wealth," he said. "It is in
lands which he cannot sell, and burdened with settlements of
generations and obligations which cannot be avoided."
"How about the Rothschilds?" I asked.
"Their fortunes," he answered, "are divided among the firms in
London, Paris, Vienna, and Frankfort, and it would be impossible
for them to be combined and used to unsettle the markets of the
world. But Mr. ------- could do this and prevent governments from
meeting their obligations."
Mr. Gladstone had no hostility to great fortunes, however large,
unless so invested as to be immediately available by a single
man for speculation. But fortunes larger than that of one hundred
millions have since been acquired, and their management is so
conservative that they are brakes and safeguards against unreasoning
panics. The majority of them have been used for public benefit.
The most conspicuous instances are the Rockefeller Foundation,
the Carnegie Endowment, and the Frick Creation.
Henry Labouchere told me a delightful story of Mr. Gladstone's
first meeting with Robert T. Lincoln, when he arrived in London
as American minister. Mr. Lincoln became in a short time after
his arrival one of the most popular of the distinguished list of
American representatives to Great Britain. He was especially noted
for the charm of his conversation. Labouchere said that Mr. Gladstone
told him that he was very anxious to meet Mr. Lincoln, both because
he was the new minister from the United States and because of his
great father, President Lincoln. Labouchere arranged for a dinner
at his house, which was an hour in the country from Mr. Gladstone's
city residence. Mrs. Gladstone made Mr. Labouchere promise, as
a condition for permitting her husband to go, that Mr. Gladstone
should be back inside of his home at ten o'clock.
The dinner had no sooner started than some question arose which
not only interested but excited Mr. Gladstone. He at once entered
upon an eloquent monologue on the subject. There was no possibility
of interruption by any one, and Mr. Lincoln had no chance whatever
to interpose a remark. When the clock was nearing eleven Labouchere
interrupted this torrent of talk by saying: "Mr. Gladstone, it is
now eleven; it is an hour's ride to London, and I promised
Mrs. Gladstone to have you back at ten." When they were seated
in the carriage Labouchere said to Mr. Gladstone: "Well, you
have passed an evening with Mr. Lincoln; what do you think of him?"
He replied: "Mr. Lincoln is a charming personality, but he does
not seem to have much conversation."
Among the very able men whom I met in London was Joseph Chamberlain.
When I first met him he was one of Mr. Gladstone's trusted
lieutenants. He was a capital speaker, a close and incisive
debater, and a shrewd politician. When he broke with Mr. Gladstone,
he retained his hold on his constituency and continued to be a
leader in the opposite party.
Mr. Chamberlain told me that in a critical debate in the
House of Commons, when the government was in danger, Mr. Gladstone,
who alone could save the situation, suddenly disappeared. Every
known resort of his was searched to find him. Mr. Chamberlain,
recollecting Mr. Gladstone's interest in a certain subject, drove
to the house of the lady whose authority on that subject
Mr. Gladstone highly respected. He found him submitting to the
lady for her criticism and correction some of Watts's hymns,
which he had translated into Italian.
The British Government sent Mr. Chamberlain to America, and he
had many public receptions given him by our mercantile and other
bodies. On account of his separating from Mr. Gladstone on
Home Rule, he met with a great deal of hostility here from the Irish.
I was present at a public dinner where the interruptions and
hostile demonstrations were very pronounced. But Mr. Chamberlain
won his audience by his skill and fighting qualities.
I gave him a dinner at my house and had a number of representative
men to meet him. He made the occasion exceedingly interesting
by presenting views of domestic conditions in England and
international ones with this country, which were quite new to us.
Mr. Chamberlain was a guest on the Teutonic at the famous review
of the British navy celebrating Queen Victoria's jubilee, where
I had the pleasure of again meeting him. He had recently married
Miss Endicott, the charming daughter of our secretary of war, and
everybody appreciated that it was a British statesman's honeymoon.
He gave me a dinner in London, at which were present a large
company, and two subjects came under very acute discussion. There
had been a recent marriage in high English society, where there
were wonderful pedigree and relationships on both sides, but no
money. It finally developed, however, that under family settlements
the young couple might have fifteen hundred pounds a year, or
seven thousand five hundred dollars. The decision was unanimous
that they could get along very well and maintain their position on
this sum and be able to reciprocate reasonably the attentions they
would receive. Nothing could better illustrate the terrific
increase in the cost of living than the contrast between then and now.
Some one of the guests at the dinner said that the Americans by
the introduction of slang were ruining the English language.
Mr. James Russell Lowell had come evidently prepared for this
controversy. He said that American slang was the common language
of that part of England from which the Pilgrims sailed, and that it
had been preserved in certain parts of the United States, notably
northern New England. He then produced an old book, a sort of
dictionary of that period, and proved his case. It was a surprise
to everybody to know that American slang was really classic English,
and still spoken in the remoter parts of Massachusetts and
New Hampshire, though no longer in use in England.
The period of Mr. Gladstone's reign as prime minister was one of
the most interesting for an American visitor who had the privilege
of knowing him and the eminent men who formed his Cabinet. The
ladies of the Cabinet entertained lavishly and superbly. A great
favorite at these social gatherings was Miss Margot Tennant,
afterwards Mrs. Asquith. Her youth, her wit, her originality and
audacity made every function a success which was graced by
The bitterness towards Mr. Gladstone of the opposition party
surpassed anything I have met in American politics, except during
the Civil War. At dinners and receptions given me by my friends
of the Tory party I was supposed as an American to be friendly to
Mr. Gladstone and Home Rule. I do not know whether this was
the reason or whether it was usual, but on such occasions the
denunciation of Mr. Gladstone as a traitor and the hope of living
to see him executed was very frequent.
I remember one important public man who was largely interested
and a good deal of a power in Canadian and American railroads.
He asked a friend of mine to arrange for me to meet him. I found
him a most agreeable man and very accurately informed on the
railway situation in Canada and the United States. He was
preparing for a visit, and so wanted me to fill any gaps there
might be in his knowledge of the situation.
Apropos of the political situation at the time, he suddenly asked
me what was the attitude of the people of the United States towards
Mr. Gladstone and his Home Rule bill. I told him they were
practically unanimous in favor of the bill, and that Mr. Gladstone
was the most popular Englishman in the United States. He at once
flew into a violent rage, the rarest thing in the world for an
Englishman, and lost control of his temper to such a degree that
I thought the easiest way to dam the flood of his denunciation
was to plead another engagement and retire from the field. I met
him frequently afterwards, especially when he came to the
United States, but carefully avoided his pet animosity.
One year, in the height of the crisis of Mr. Gladstone's effort
to pass the Home Rule bill, a member of his Cabinet said to me:
"We of the Cabinet are by no means unanimous in believing in
Mr. Gladstone's effort, but he is the greatest power in our country.
The people implicitly believe in him and we are helping all we can."
It is well known that one after another broke away from him in
time. The same Cabinet minister continued: "Mr. Gladstone has
gone to the extreme limit in concessions made in his Home Rule
bill, and he can carry the English, Scotch, and Welsh members.
But every time the Irish seem to be satisfied, they make a new
demand and a greater one. Unless this stops and the present bill
is accepted, the whole scheme will break down. Many of the Irish
members are supported by contributions from America. Their
occupation is politics. If Home Rule should be adopted the serious
people of Ireland, whose economic interests are at stake, might
come to the front and take all representative offices themselves.
We have come to the conclusion that enough of the Irish members
to defeat the bill do not want Home Rule on any conditions.
I know it is a custom when you arrive home every year that your
friends meet you down the Bay and give you a reception. Then you
give an interview of your impressions over here, and that interview
is printed as widely in this country as in the United States. Now
I wish you would do this: At the reception put in your own way
what I have told you, and especially emphasize that Mr. Gladstone
is imperilling his political career and whole future for the sake
of what he believes would be justice to Ireland. He cannot go
any further and hold his English, Scotch, and Welsh constituencies.
He believes that he can pass the present bill and start Ireland on
a career of Home Rule if he can receive the support of the Irish
members. The Americans who believe in Mr. Gladstone and are all
honest Home Rulers will think this is an indirect message from
himself, and it would be if it were prudent for Mr. Gladstone to
send the message."
On my return to New York I did as requested. The story was
published and commented on everywhere, and whether it was due
to American insistence or not, I do not know, but shortly after
Mr. Gladstone succeeded in carrying his Home Rule bill through the
House of Commons, but it was defeated by the Conservatives in the
House of Lords.
His Irish policy is a tribute to Mr. Gladstone's judgment and
foresight, because in the light and conditions of to-day it is
perfectly plain that if the Gladstone measure had been adopted
at that time, the Irish question would not now be the most difficult
and dangerous in British politics.
I had many talks with Mr. Parnell and made many speeches in his
behalf and later for Mr. Redmond. I asked him on one occasion
if the Irish desired complete independence and the formation of
an independent government. He answered: "No, we want Home Rule,
but to retain our connection in a way with the British Empire.
The military, naval, and civil service of the British Empire gives
great opportunities for our young men. Ireland in proportion to
its population is more largely represented in these departments
of the British Government than either England, Scotland, or Wales."
Incidental to the division in Mr. Gladstone's Cabinet, which had
not at this time broken out, was the great vogue which a story of
mine had. I was dining with Earl Spencer. He had been lord
lieutenant of Ireland and was very popular. His wife especially
had been as great a success as the vice-regent. He was called
the Red Earl because of his flowing auburn beard. He was a very