Part 2 out of 4
I could not account for this. One evening at a dinner Mr. Blaine
enlightened me. We sat together at table and suddenly he turned and said:
"How are you getting on with your bill?" And my reply being rather halting,
he continued, "You won't get a vote in either House," and he proceeded
very humorously to improvise the average member's argument against it as
a dangerous power, a perquisite to the great newspapers and an imposition
upon the little ones. To my mind this was something more than the
post-prandial levity it was meant to be.
Not long after a learned but dissolute old lawyer said to me, "You need no
act of Congress to protect your news service. There are at least two, and I
think four or five, English rulings that cover the case. Let me show them
to you." He did so and I went no further with the business, quite agreeing
with Mr. Blaine, and nothing further came of it. To a recent date the
Associated Press has relied on these decisions under the common law of
England. Curiously enough, quite a number of newspapers in whose actual
service I was engaged, opened fire upon me and roundly abused me.
There appeared upon the scene in Washington toward the middle of the
seventies one of those problematical characters the fiction-mongers delight
in. This was John Chamberlin. During two decades "Chamberlin's," half
clubhouse and half chophouse, was all a rendezvous.
"John" had been a gambler; first an underling and then a partner of the
famous Morrissy-McGrath racing combination at Saratoga and Long Branch.
There was a time when he was literally rolling in wealth. Then he went
broke--dead broke. Black Friday began it and the panic of '73 finished
it. He came over to Washington and his friends got him the restaurant
privileges of the House of Representatives. With this for a starting point,
he was able to take the Fernando Wood residence, in the heart of the
fashionable quarter, to add to it presently the adjoining dwelling of
Governor Swann, of Maryland, and next to that, finally, the Blaine
mansion, making a suite, as it were, elegant yet cozy. "Welcker's," erst a
fashionable resort, and long the best eating-place in town, had been ruined
by a scandal, and "Chamberlin's" succeeded it, having the field to itself,
though, mindful of the "scandal" which had made its opportunity, ladies
There was a famous cook--Emeline Simmons--a mulatto woman, who was equally
at home in French dishes and Maryland-Virginia kitchen mysteries--a very
wonder with canvasback and terrapin--who later refused a great money offer
to he chef at the White House--whom John was able to secure. Nothing could
surpass--could equal--her preparations. The charges, like the victuals,
were sky-high and tip-top. The service was handled by three "colored
gentlemen," as distinguished in manners as in appearance, who were known
far and wide by name and who dominated all about them, including John and
No such place ever existed before, or will ever exist again. It was the
personality of John Chamberlin, pervasive yet invisible, exhaling a silent,
welcoming radiance. General Grant once said to me, "During my eight years
in the White House, John Chamberlin once in a while--once in a great
while--came over. He did not ask for anything. He just told me what to do,
and I did it." I mentioned this to President Arthur. "Well," he laughingly
said, "that has been my experience with John Chamberlin. It never crosses
my mind to say him 'nay.' Often I have turned this over in my thought
to reach the conclusion that being a man of sound judgment and worldly
knowledge, he has fully considered the case--his case and my case--leaving
me no reasonable objection to interpose."
John obtained an act of Congress authorizing him to build a hotel on the
Government reservation at Fortress Monroe, and another of the Virginia
Legislature confirming this for the State. Then he came to me. It was at
the moment when I was flourishing as "a Wall Street magnate." He said: "I
want to sell this franchise to some man, or company, rich enough to carry
it through. All I expect is a nest egg for Emily and the girls"--he had
married the beautiful Emily Thorn, widow of George Jordan, the actor, and
there were two daughters--"you are hand-and-glove with the millionaires.
Won't you manage it for me?" Like Grant and Arthur, I never thought of
refusing. Upon the understanding that I was to receive no commission, I
agreed, first ascertaining that it was really a most valuable franchise.
I began with the Willards, in whose hotel I had grown up. They were rich
and going out of business. Then I laid it before Hitchcock and Darling, of
the Fifth Avenue Hotel in New York. They, rich like the Willards, were
also retiring. Then a bright thought occurred to me. I went to the Prince
Imperial of Standard Oil. "Mr. Flagler," I said, "you have hotels at St.
Augustine and you have hotels at Palm Beach. Here is a halfway point
between New York and Florida," and more of the same sort. "My dear friend,"
he answered, "every man has the right to make a fool of himself once in his
life. This I have already done. Never again for me. I have put up my
last dollar south of the Potomac." Then I went to the King of the
transcontinental railways. "Mr. Huntington," I said, "you own a road
extending from St. Louis to Newport News, having a terminal in a cornfield
just out of Hampton Roads. Here is a franchise which gives you a
magnificent site at Hampton Roads itself. Why not?" He gazed upon me with
a blank stare--such I fancy as he usually turned upon his suppliants--and
slowly replied: "I would not spend another dollar in Virginia if the Lord
commanded me. In the event that some supernatural power should take the
Chesapeake & Ohio Railway by the nape of the neck and the seat of the
breeches and pitch it out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean it would be
doing me a favor."
So I returned John his franchise marked "nothing doing." Afterward he put
it in the hands of a very near friend, a great capitalist, who had no
better luck with it. Finally, here and there, literally by piecemeal, he
got together money enough to build and furnish the Hotel Chamberlin, had a
notable opening with half of Congress there to see, and gently laid himself
down and died, leaving little other than friends and debts.
Macaulay tells us that the dinner-table is a wondrous peacemaker, miracle
worker, social solvent; and many were the quarrels composed and the plans
perfected under the Chamberlin roof. It became a kind of Congressional
Exchange with a close White House connection. If those old walls, which by
the way are still standing, could speak, what tales they might tell, what
testimonies refute, what new lights throw into the vacant corners and dark
places of history!
Coming away from Chamberlin's with Mr. Blaine for an after-dinner stroll
during the winter of 1883-4, referring to the approaching National
Republican Convention, he said: "I do not want the nomination. In my
opinion there is but one nominee the Republicans can elect this year and
that is General Sherman. I have written him to tell him so and urge it upon
him. In default of him the time of you people has come." He subsequently
showed me this letter and General Sherman's reply. My recollection is that
the General declared that he would not take the presidency if it were
offered him, earnestly invoking Mr. Elaine to support his brother, John
This would seem clear refutation that Mr. Blaine was party to his own
nomination that year. It assuredly reveals keen political instinct and
foresight. The capital prize in the national lottery was not for him.
I did not meet him until two years later, when he gave me a minute account
of what had happened immediately thereafter; the swing around the circle;
Belshazzar's feast, as a fatal New York banquet was called; the far-famed
Burchard incident. "I did not hear the words, 'Rum, Romanism and
Rebellion,'" he told me, "else, as you must know, I would have fittingly
disposed of them."
I said: "Mr. Blaine, you may as well give it up. The doom of Webster,
Clay, and Douglas is upon you. If you are nominated again, with an assured
election, you will die before the day of election. If you survive the day
and are elected, you'll die before the 4th of March." He smiled grimly and
replied: "It really looks that way."
My own opinion has always been that if the Republicans had nominated
Mr. Arthur in 1884 they would have elected him. The New York vote would
scarcely have been so close. In the count of the vote the Arthur end of
it would have had some advantage--certainly no disadvantage. Cleveland's
nearly 200,000 majority had dwindled to the claim of a beggarly few
hundred, and it was charged that votes which belonged to Butler, who ran as
an independent labor candidate, were actually counted for Cleveland.
When it was over an old Republican friend of mine said: "Now we are even.
History will attest that we stole it once and you stole it once. Turn about
may be fair play; but, all the same, neither of us likes it."
So Grover Cleveland, unheard of outside of Buffalo two years before, was to
be President of the United States. The night preceding his nomination for
the governorship of New York, General Slocum seemed in the State convention
sure of that nomination. Had he received it he would have carried the State
as Cleveland did, and Slocum, not Cleveland, would have been the Chief
Magistrate. It cost Providence a supreme effort to pull Cleveand through.
But in his case, as in many another, Providence "got there" in fulfilment
of a decree of Destiny.
Chapter the Nineteenth
Mr. Cleveland in the White House--Mr. Bayard in the Department of
State--Queer Appointments to Office--The One-Party Power--The End of
North and South Sectionalism
The futility of political as well as of other human reckoning was set
forth by the result of the presidential election of 1884. With a kind
of prescience, as I have related, Mr. Blaine had foreseen it. He was
a sagacious as well as a lovable and brilliant man. He looked back
affectionately upon the days he had passed in Kentucky, when a poor
school-teacher, and was especially cordial to the Kentuckians. In the House
he and Beck were sworn friends, and they continued their friendship when
both of them had reached the Senate.
I inherited Mr. Blaine's desk in the Ways and Means Committee room. In one
of the drawers of this he had left a parcel of forgotten papers, which
I returned to him. He made a joke of the secrets they covered and the
fortunate circumstance that they had fallen into the hands of a friend and
not of an enemy.
No man of his time could hold a candle to Mr. Blaine in what we call
magnetism--that is, in manly charm, supported by facility and brain power.
Clay and Douglas had set the standard of party leadership before his time.
He made a good third to them. I never knew Mr. Clay, but with Judge Douglas
I was well acquainted, and the difference between him and Mr. Blaine in
leadership might be called negligible.
Both were intellectually aggressive and individually amiable. They at least
seemed to love their fellow men. Each had been tried by many adventures.
Each had gone, as it were, "through the flint mill." Born to good
conditions--Mr. Blaine sprang from aristocratic forebears--each knew by
early albeit brief experience the seamy side of life; as each, like Clay,
nursed a consuming passion for the presidency. Neither had been made for
a subaltern, and they chafed under the subaltern yoke to which fate had
In Grover Cleveland a total stranger had arrived at the front of affairs.
The Democrats, after a rule of more than half a century, had been out of
power twenty-four years. They could scarce realize at first that they were
again in power. The new chieftain proved more of an unknown quantity than
had been suspected. William Dorsheimer, a life-long crony, had brought the
two of us together before Cleveland's election to the governorship of the
Empire State as one of a group of attractive Buffalo men, most of whom
might be said to have been cronies of mine, Buffalo being a delightful
halfway stop-over in my frequent migrations between Kentucky and the
Eastern seaboard. As in the end we came to a parting of the ways I want to
write of Mr. Cleveland as a historian and not as a critic.
He said to Mr. Carlisle after one of our occasional tiffs: "Henry will
never like me until God makes me over again." The next time we met,
referring to this, I said: "Mr. President, I like you very much--very much
indeed--but sometimes I don't like some of your ways."
There were in point of fact two Clevelands--before marriage and after
marriage--the intermediate Cleveland rather unequal and indeterminate.
Assuredly no one of his predecessors had entered the White House so wholly
ignorant of public men and national affairs. Stories used to be told
assigning to Zachary Taylor this equivocal distinction. But General Taylor
had grown up in the army and advanced in the military service to a chief
command, was more or less familiar with the party leaders of his time,
and was by heredity a gentleman. The same was measurably true of Grant.
Cleveland confessed himself to have had no social training, and he
literally knew nobody.
Five or six weeks after his inauguration I went to Washington to ask a
diplomatic appointment for my friend, Boyd Winchester. Ill health had cut
short a promising career in Congress, but Mr. Winchester was now well on to
recovery, and there seemed no reason why he should not and did not stand in
the line of preferment. My experience may be worth recording because it is
In my quest I had not thought of going beyond Mr. Bayard, the new Secretary
of State. I did go to him, but the matter seemed to make no headway. There
appeared a hitch somewhere. It had not crossed my mind that it might be
the President himself. What did the President know or care about foreign
He said to me on a Saturday when I was introducing a party of Kentucky
friends: "Come up to-morrow for luncheon. Come early, for Rose"--his
sister, for the time being mistress of the White House--"will be at church
and we can have an old-fashioned talk-it-out."
The next day we passed the forenoon together. He was full of homely and
often whimsical talk. He told me he had not yet realized what had happened
"Sometimes," he said, "I wake at night and rub my eyes and wonder if it is
not all a dream."
He asked an infinite number of questions about this, that and the other
Democratic politician. He was having trouble with the Kentucky Congressmen.
He had appointed a most unlikely scion of a well-known family to a foreign
mission, and another young Kentuckian, the son of a New York magnate, to a
leading consul generalship, without consultation with any one. He asked me
about these. In a way one of them was one of my boys, and I was glad to see
him get what he wanted, though he aspired to nothing so high. He was indeed
all sorts of a boy, and his elevation to such a post was so grotesque that
the nomination, like that of his mate, was rejected by the Senate. I
gave the President a serio-comic but kindly account, at which he laughed
heartily, and ended by my asking how he had chanced to make two such
"Hewitt came over here," he answered, "and then Dorsheimer. The father is
the only Democrat we have in that great corporation. As to the other, he
struck me as a likely fellow. It seemed good politics to gratify them and
I suggested that such backing was far afield and not very safe to go by,
when suddenly he said: "I have been told over and over again by you and by
others that you will not take office. Too much of a lady, I suppose! What
are you hanging round Washington for anyhow? What do you want?"
Here was my opportunity to speak of Winchester, and I did so.
When I had finished he said: "What are you doing about Winchester?"
"Relying on the Secretary of State, who served in Congress with him and
knows him well."
Then he asked: "What do you want for Winchester?"
I answered: "Belgium or Switzerland."
He said: "I promised Switzerland for a friend of Corning's. He brought
him over here yesterday and he is an out-and-out Republican who voted for
Blaine, and I shall not appoint him. If you want the place for Winchester,
Winchester it is."
Next day, much to Mr. Bayard's surprise, the commission was made out.
Mr. Cleveland had a way of sudden fancies to new and sometimes queer
people. Many of his appointments were eccentric and fell like bombshells
upon the Senate, taking the appointee's home people completely by surprise.
The recommendation of influential politicians seemed to have little if any
weight with him.
There came to Washington from Richmond a gentleman by the name of Keiley,
backed by the Virginia delegation for a minor consulship. The President at
once fell in love with him.
[Illustration: Mr. Watterson's Library at "Mansfield"]
"Consul be damned," he said. "He is worth more than that," and named him
Ambassador to Vienna.
It turned out that Mrs. Keiley was a Jewess and would not be received at
court. Then he named him Ambassador to Italy, when it appeared that Keiley
was an intense Roman Catholic, who had made at least one ultramontane
speech, and would be _persona non grata_ at the Quirinal. Then
Cleveland dropped him. Meanwhile poor Keiley had closed out bag and baggage
at Richmond and was at his wit's end. After much ado the President was
brought to a realizing sense and a place was found for Keiley as consul
general and diplomatic agent at Cairo, whither he repaired. At the end
of the four years he came to Paris and one day, crossing the Place de la
Concorde, he was run over by a truck and killed. He deserved a longer
career and a better fate, for he was a man of real capacity.
Taken to task by thick and thin Democratic partisans for my criticism of
the only two Democratic Presidents we have had since the War of Sections,
Cleveland and Wilson, I have answered by asserting the right and duty of
the journalist to talk out in meeting, flatly repudiating the claims as
well as the obligations of the organ grinder they had sought to put upon
me, and closing with the knife grinder's retort--
_Things have come to a hell of a pass
When a man can't wallop his own jackass_.
In the case of Mr. Cleveland the break had come over the tariff issue.
Reading me his first message to Congress the day before he sent it in, he
had said: "I know nothing about the tariff, and I thought I had best leave
it where you and Morrison had put it in the platform."
We had indeed had a time in the Platform Committee of the Chicago
convention of 1884. After an unbroken session of fifty hours a straddle
was all that the committee could be brought to agree upon. The leading
recalcitrant had been General Butler, who was there to make trouble and who
later along bolted the ticket and ran as an independent candidate.
One aim of the Democrats was to get away from the bloody shirt as an issue.
Yet, as the sequel proved, it was long after Cleveland's day before the
bloody shirt was laid finally to rest. It required a patriot and a hero
like William McKinley to do this. When he signed the commissions of Joseph
Wheeler and Fitzhugh Lee, Confederate generals and graduates of the West
Point Military Academy, to be generals in the Army of the United States,
he made official announcement that the War of Sections was over and gave
complete amnesty to the people and the soldiers of the South.
Yet the bloody shirt lingered long as a troublemaker, and was invoked by
That chance gathering of heedless persons, stirred by the bombast of
self-exploiting orators eager for notoriety or display--loose mobs of
local nondescripts led by pension sharks so aptly described by the gallant
General Bragg, of Wisconsin, as coffee coolers and camp followers--should
tear their passion to tatters with the thought that Virginia, exercising an
indisputable right and violating no reasonable sensibility, should elect
to send memorials of Washington and Lee for the Hall of Statues in the
nation's Capitol, came in the accustomed way of bloody-shirt agitation. It
merely proved how easily men are led when taken in droves and stirred by
partyism. Such men either bore no part in the fighting when fighting was
the order of the time, or else they were too ignorant and therefore too
unpatriotic to comprehend the meaning of the intervening years and the
glory these had brought with the expanse of national progress and prowess.
In spite of their lack of representative character it was not easy to
repress impatience at ebullitions of misguided zeal so ignoble; and of
course it was not possible to dissuade or placate them.
All the while never a people more eager to get together than the people of
the United States after the War of Sections, as never a people so averse to
getting into that war. A very small group of extremists and doctrinaires
had in the beginning made a War of Sections possible. Enough of these
survived in the days of Cleveland and McKinley to keep sectionalism alive.
It was mainly sectional clamor out for partisan advantage. But it made
the presidential campaigns lurid in certain quarters. There was no end of
objurgation, though it would seem that even the most embittered Northerner
and ultra Republican who could couple the names of Robert E. Lee and
Benedict Arnold, as was often done in campaign lingo, would not hesitate,
if his passions were roused or if he fancied he saw in it some profit to
himself or his party, to liken George Washington to Judas Iscariot.
The placing of Lee's statue in the Capitol at Washington made the occasion
It is true that long before Confederate officers had sat in both Houses of
Congress and in Republican and Democratic cabinets and upon the bench of
the Supreme Court, and had served as ambassadors and envoys extraordinary
in foreign lands. But McKinley's doing was the crowning stroke of union and
There had been a weary and varied interim. Sectionalism proved a sturdy
plant. It died hard. We may waive the reconstruction period as ancient
history. There followed it intense party spirit. Yet, in spite of
extremists and malignants on both sides of the line, the South rallied
equally with the North to the nation's drumbeat after the Maine went down
in the harbor of Havana. It fought as bravely and as loyally at Santiago
and Manila. Finally, by the vote of the North, there came into the Chief
Magistracy one who gloried in the circumstance that on the maternal side
he came of fighting Southern stock; who, amid universal applause, declared
that no Southerner could he prouder than he of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall
Jackson, apotheosizing an uncle, his mother's brother, who had stood at the
head of the Confederate naval establishment in Europe and had fitted out
the Confederate cruisers, as the noblest and purest man he had ever known,
a composite of Colonel Newcome and Henry Esmond.
Meanwhile the process of oblivion had gone on. The graven effigy of
Jefferson Davis at length appeared upon the silver service of an American
battleship. This told the Mississippi's guests, wherever and whenever they
might meet round her hospitable board, of national unification and peace,
giving the lie to sectional malignancy. In the most famous and conspicuous
of the national cemeteries now stands the monument of a Confederate general
not only placed there by consent of the Government, but dedicated with
fitting ceremonies supervised by the Department of War, which sent as its
official representative the son of Grant, himself an army officer of rank
The world has looked on, incredulous and amazed, whilst our country has
risen to each successive act in the drama of reconciliation with increasing
I have been all my life a Constitutional Nationalist; first the nation and
then the state. The episode of the Confederacy seems already far away. It
was an interlude, even as matters stood in the Sixties and Seventies, and
now he who would thwart the unification of the country on the lines of
oblivion, of mutual and reciprocal forgiveness, throws himself across the
highway of his country's future, and is a traitor equally to the essential
principles of free government and the spirit of the age.
If sectionalism be not dead it should have no place in popular
consideration. The country seems happily at last one with itself. The
South, like the East and the West, has come to be the merest geographic
expression. Each of its states is in the Union, precisely like the states
of the East and the West, all in one and one in all. Interchanges of every
These exchanges underlie and interlace our social, domestic and business
fabric. That the arrangement and relation after half a century of strife
thus established should continue through all time is the hope and prayer
of every thoughtful, patriotic American. There is no greater dissonance
to that sentiment in the South than in the North. To what end, therefore,
except ignominious recrimination and ruinous dissension, could a revival of
old sectional and partisan passions--if it were possible--be expected to
Humor has played no small part in our politics. It was Col. Mulberry
Sellers, Mark Twain's hero, who gave currency to the conceit and enunciated
the principle of "the old flag and an appropriation." He did not claim the
formula as his own, however. He got it, he said, of Senator Dillworthy, his
patriotic file leader and ideal of Christian statesmanship.
The original of Senator Dillworthy was recognized the country over as
Senator Pomeroy, of Kansas, "Old Pom," as he had come to be called, whose
oleaginous piety and noisy patriotism, adjusting themselves with equal
facility to the purloining of subsidies and the roasting of rebels, to
prayer and land grants, had impressed themselves upon the Satirist of
the Gilded Age as upon his immediate colleagues in Congress. He was a
ruffle-shirted Pharisee, who affected the airs of a bishop, and resembled
Cruikshank's pictures of Pecksniff.
There have not been many "Old Poms" in our public life; or, for that matter
Aaron Burrs either, and but one Benedict Arnold. That the chosen people of
God did not dwell amid the twilight of the ages and in far-away Judea, but
were reserved to a later time, and a region then undiscovered of men, and
that the American republic was ordained of God to illustrate upon the
theater of the New World the possibilities of free government in contrast
with the failures and tyrannies and corruptions of the Old, I do truly
believe. That is the first article in my confession of faith. And the
second is like unto it, that Washington was raised up by God to create it,
and that Lincoln was raised up by God to save it; else why the militia
colonel of Virginia and the rail splitter of Illinois, for no reason that
was obvious at the time, before all other men? God moves in a mysterious
way his wonders to perform. The star of the sublime destiny that hung over
the manager of our blessed Savior hung over the cradle of our blessed
Thus far it has weathered each historic danger which has gone before to
mark the decline and fall of nations; the struggle for existence; the
foreign invasion; the internecine strife; the disputed succession;
religious bigotry and racial conflict. One other peril confronts
it--the demoralization of wealth and luxury; too great prosperity; the
concentration and the abuse of power. Shall we survive the lures with which
the spirit of evil, playing upon our self-love, seeks to trip our wayward
footsteps, purse-pride and party spirit, mistaken zeal and perverted
religion, fanaticism seeking to abridge liberty and liberty running to
license, greed masquerading as a patriot and ambition making a commodity of
glory--or under the process of a divine evolution shall we be able to mount
and ride the waves which swallowed the tribes of Israel, which engulfed the
phalanxes of Greece and the legions of Rome, and which still beat the sides
and sweep the decks of Europe?
The one-party power we have escaped; the one-man power we have escaped. The
stars in their courses fight for us; the virtue and intelligence of the
people are still watchful and alert. Truth is mightier than ever, and
justice, mounting guard even in the Hall of Statues, walks everywhere the
battlements of freedom!
Chapter the Twentieth
The Real Grover Cleveland--Two Clevelands Before and After Marriage--A
Correspondence and a Break of Personal Relations
There were, as I have said, two Grover Clevelands--before and after
marriage--and, it might be added, between his defeat in 1888 and his
election in 1892. He was so sure of his election in 1888 that he could not
be induced to see the danger of the situation in his own State of New York,
where David Bennett Hill, who had succeeded him in the governorship, was a
candidate for reelection, and whom he personally detested, had become the
ruling party force. He lost the State, and with it the election, while Hill
won, and thereby arose an ugly faction fight.
I did not believe as the quadrennial period approached in 1892 that Mr.
Cleveland could be elected. I still think he owed his election, and
Harrison his defeat, to the Homestead riots of the midsummer, which
transferred the labor vote bodily from the Republicans to the Democrats.
Mainly on account of this belief I opposed his nomination that year.
In the Kentucky State Convention I made my opposition resonant, if not
effective. "I understand," I said in an address to the assembled delegates,
"that you are all for Grover Cleveland?"
There came an affirmative roar.
"Well," I continued, "I am not, and if you send me to the National
Convention I will not vote for his nomination, if his be the only name
presented, because I firmly believe that his nomination will mean the
marching through a slaughter-house to an open grave, and I refuse to be
party to such a folly."
The answer of the convention was my appointment by acclamation, but it was
many a day before I heard the last of my unlucky figure of speech.
Notwithstanding this splendid indorsement, I went to the National
Convention feeling very like the traditional "poor boy at a frolic." All
seemed to me lost save honor and conviction. I had become the embodiment
of my own epigram, "a tariff for revenue only." Mr. Cleveland, in the
beginning very much taken by it, had grown first lukewarm and then
frightened. His "Free Trade" message of 1887 had been regarded by the party
as an answering voice. But I knew better.
In the national platform, over the protest of Whitney, his organizer, and
Vilas, his spokesman, I had forced him to stand on that gospel. He flew
into a rage and threatened to modify, if not to repudiate, the plank in his
letter of acceptance. We were still on friendly terms and, upon reaching
home, I wrote him the following letter. It reads like ancient history,
but, as the quarrel which followed cut a certain figure in the political
chronicle of the time, the correspondence may not be historically out of
date, or biographically uninteresting:
MR. WATTERSON TO MR. CLEVELAND
Courier-Journal Office, Louisville, July 9, 1892.--My Dear Mr. President:
I inclose you two editorial articles from the Courier-Journal, and, that
their spirit and purpose may not be misunderstood by you, I wish to add a
word or two of a kind directly and entirely personal.
To a man of your robust understanding and strong will, opposition and
criticism are apt to be taken as more or less unfriendly; and, as you are
at present advised, I can hardly expect that any words of mine will be
received by you with sentiments either of confidence or favor.
I was admonished by a certain distrust, if not disdain, visited upon the
honest challenge I ventured to offer your Civil Service policy, when you
were actually in office, that you did not differ from some other great men
I have known in an unwillingness, or at least an inability, to accept,
without resentment, the question of your infallibility. Nevertheless, I was
then, as I am now, your friend, and not your enemy, animated by the
single purpose to serve the country, through you, as, wanting your great
opportunities, I could not serve it through myself.
During the four years when you were President, I asked you but for one
thing that lay near my heart. You granted that handsomely; and, if you
had given me all you had to give beside, you could not have laid me under
greater obligation. It is a gratification to me to know, and it ought to be
some warrant both of my intelligence and fidelity for you to remember that
that matter resulted in credit to the Administration and benefit to the
But to the point; I had at St. Louis in 1888 and at Chicago, the present
year, to oppose what was represented as your judgment and desire in the
adoption of a tariff plank in our national platform; successfully in both
cases. The inclosed articles set forth the reasons forcing upon me a
different conclusion from yours, in terms that may appear to you bluntly
specific, but I hope not personally offensive; certainly not by intention,
for, whilst I would not suppress the truth to please you or any man, I
have a decent regard for the sensibilities and the rights of all men,
particularly of men so eminent as to be beyond the reach of anything except
insolence and injustice. Assuredly in your case, I am incapable of even so
much as the covert thought of either, entertaining for you absolute respect
and regard. But, my dear Mr. President, I do not think that you appreciate
the overwhelming force of the revenue reform issue, which has made you its
[Illustration: A Corner of "Mansfield"--Home of Henry Watterson]
If you will allow me to say so, in perfect frankness and without intending
to be rude or unkind, the gentlemen immediately about you, gentlemen upon
whom you rely for material aid and energetic party management, are not, as
to the Tariff, Democrats at all; and have little conception of the place in
the popular mind and heart held by the Revenue Reform idea, or, indeed of
any idea, except that of organization and money.
Of the need of these latter, no man has a more realizing sense, or larger
information and experience, than I have. But they are merely the brakes and
wheels of the engine, to which principles and inspirations are, and must
always be, the elements of life and motion. It is to entreat you therefore,
in your coming letter and address, not to underestimate the tremendous
driving power of this Tariff issue, and to beg you, not even to seem to
qualify it, or to abridge its terms in a mistaken attempt to seem to be
You cannot escape your great message of 1887 if you would. I know it by
heart, and I think that I perfectly apprehend its scope and tenor. Take it
as your guiding star. Stand upon it. Reiterate it. Emphasize it, amplify
it, but do not subtract a thought, do not erase a word. For every vote
which a bold front may lose you in the East you will gain two votes in the
West. In the East, particularly in New York, enemies lurk in your very
cupboard, and strike at you from behind your chair at table. There is more
than a fighting chance for Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota, and next to
a certainty in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana, if you put yourself
personally at the head of the column which is moving in your name,
supposing it to be another name for reduced taxes and freer exchanges.
Discouraged as I was by the condition of things in New York and Indiana
prior to the Chicago Convention, depressed and almost hopeless by your
nomination, I can see daylight, if you will relax your grip somewhat upon
the East and throw yourself confidently upon the West.
I write warmly because I feel warmly. If you again occupy the White House,
and it is my most constant and earnest prayer that you may, be sure that
you will not be troubled by me. I cannot hope that my motives in opposing
your nomination, consistent as you know them to have been, or that my
conduct during the post-convention discussion and canvass, free as I know
it to have been of ill-feeling, or distemper, has escaped misrepresentation
and misconception. I could not, without the loss of my self-respect,
approach you on any private matter whatever; though it may not be amiss
for me to say to you, that three weeks before the meeting of the National
Convention, I wrote to Mr. Gorman and Mr. Brice urging the withdrawal of
any opposition, and declaring that I would be a party to no movement to
work the two-thirds rule to defeat the will of the majority.
This is all I have to say, Mr. President, and you can believe it or not, as
you please; though you ought to know that I would write you nothing except
in sincere conviction, nor speak to you, or of you, except in a candid and
kindly spirit. Trusting that this will find you hale, hearty, and happy, I
am, dear sir, your fellow democrat and most faithful friend,
The Honorable Grover Cleveland.
MR. CLEVELAND TO MR. WATTERSON
By return mail I received this answer:
Gray Gables, Buzzards Bay, Mass., July 15, 1892.
MY DEAR MR. WATTERSON:
I have received your letter and the clippings you inclosed.
I am not sure that I understand perfectly all that they mean. One thing
they demonstrate beyond any doubt, to-wit: that you have not--I think I may
say--the slightest conception of my disposition. It may be that I know
as little about yours. I am surprised by the last paragraph of The
Courier-Journal article of July 8 and amazed to read the statements
contained in your letter, that you know the message of 1887 by heart. It
is a matter of very small importance, but I hope you will allow me to say,
that in all the platform smashing you ever did, you never injured nor
inspired me that I have ever seen or heard of, except that of 1888. I
except that, so I may be exactly correct when I write, "seen or heard
of,"--for I use the words literally.
I would like very much to present some views to you relating to the tariff
position, but I am afraid to do so.
I will, however, venture to say this: If we are defeated this year, I
predict a Democratic wandering in the dark wilds of discouragement for
twenty-five years. I do not purpose to be at all responsible for such a
result. I hope all others upon whom rests the least responsibility will
fully appreciate it.
The world will move on when both of us are dead. While we stay, and
especially while we are in any way concerned in political affairs and while
we are members of the same political brotherhood, let us both resolve to be
just and modest and amiable. Yours very sincerely,
Hon. Henry Watterson, Louisville, Ky.
MR. WATTERSON TO MR. CLEVELAND
I said in answer:
Louisville, July 22, 1892.--My Dear Sir: I do not see how you could
misunderstand the spirit in which I wrote, or be offended by my plain
words. They were addressed as from one friend to another, as from one
Democrat to another. If you entertain the idea that this is a false view
of our relative positions, and that your eminence lifts you above both
comradeship and counsels, I have nothing to say except to regret that, in
underestimating your breadth of character I exposed myself too contumely.
You do, indeed, ride a wave of fortune and favor. You are quite beyond
the reach of insult, real or fancied. You could well afford to be more
In answer to the ignorance of my service to the Democratic party, which you
are at such pains to indicate--and, particularly, with reference to the
sectional issue and the issue of tariff reform--I might, if I wanted to be
unamiable, suggest to you a more attentive perusal of the proceedings of
the three national conventions which nominated you for President.
But I purpose nothing of the sort. In the last five national conventions my
efforts were decisive in framing the platform of the party. In each of them
I closed the debate, moved the previous question and was sustained by the
convention. In all of them, except the last, I was a maker, not a smasher.
Touching what happened at Chicago, the present year, I had a right, in
common with good Democrats, to be anxious; and out of that sense of anxiety
alone I wrote you. I am sorry that my temerity was deemed by you intrusive
and, entering a respectful protest against a ban which I cannot believe to
be deserved by me, and assuring you that I shall not again trouble you in
that way, I am, your obedient servant,
The Hon. Grover Cleveland.
This ended my personal relations with Mr. Cleveland. Thereafter we did not
speak as we passed by. He was a hard man to get on with. Overcredulous,
though by no means excessive, in his likes, very tenacious in his dislikes,
suspicious withal, he grew during his second term in the White House,
exceedingly "high and mighty," suggesting somewhat the "stuffed prophet,"
of Mr. Dana's relentless lambasting and verifying my insistence that he
posed rather as an idol to be worshiped, than a leader to be trusted and
loved. He was in truth a strong man, who, sufficiently mindful of his
limitations in the beginning, grew by unexampled and continued success
overconfident and overconscious in his own conceit. He had a real desire to
serve the country. But he was apt to think that he alone could effectively
serve it. In one of our spats I remember saying to him, "You seem, Mr.
President, to think you are the only pebble on the beach--the one honest
and brave man in the party--hut let me assure you of my own knowledge that
there are others." His answer was, "Oh, you go to ----!"
He split his party wide open. The ostensible cause was the money issue.
But, underlying this, there was a deal of personal embitterment. Had he
been a man of foresight--or even of ordinary discernment--he might have
held it together and with it behind him have carried the gold standard.
I had contended for a sound currency from the outset of the fiscal
contention, fighting first the green-back craze and then the free silver
craze against an overwhelming majority in the West and South, nowhere more
radically relentless than in Kentucky. Both movements had their origin on
economic fallacies and found their backing in dishonest purpose to escape
Through Mr. Cleveland the party of Jefferson, Jackson, and Tilden was
converted from a Democrat into a Populist, falling into the arms of Mr.
Bryan, whose domination proved as baleful in one way as Mr. Cleveland's had
been in another, the final result shipwreck, with the extinguishment of all
but the label.
Mr. Bryan was a young man of notable gifts of speech and boundless
self-assertion. When he found himself well in the saddle he began to rule
despotically and to ride furiously. A party leader more short-sighted could
hardly be imagined. None of his judgments came true. As a consequence the
Republicans for a long time had everything their own way, and, save for
the Taft-Roosevelt quarrel, might have held their power indefinitely. All
history tells us that the personal equation must be reckoned with in
public life. Assuredly it cuts no mean figure in human affairs. And, when
politicians fall out--well--the other side comes in.
Chapter the Twenty-First
Stephen Foster, the Song-Writer--A Friend Comes to the Rescu
His Originality--"My Old Kentucky Home" and the "Old Folks at
Home"--General Sherman and "Marching Through Georgia"
I have received many letters touching what I said a little while ago of
Stephen Collins Foster, the song writer. In that matter I had, and could
have had, no unkindly thought or purpose. The story of the musical
scrapbook rested not with me, but as I stated, upon the averment of Will S.
Hays, a rival song writer. But that the melody of Old Folks at Home may be
found in Schubert's posthumous Rosemonde admits not of contradiction for
there it is, and this would seem to be in some sort corroborative evidence
of the truth of Hays' story.
Among these letters comes one from Young E. Allison which is entitled to
serious consideration. Mr. Allison is a gentleman of the first order of
character and culture, an editor and a musician, and what he writes cannot
fail to carry with it very great weight. I need make no apology for quoting
him at length.
"I have long been collecting material about Foster from his birth to his
death," says Mr. Allison, "and aside from his weak and fatal love of drink,
which developed after he was twenty-five, and had married, his life was one
continuous devotion to the study of music, of painting, of poetry and of
languages; in point of fact, of all the arts that appeal to one who feels
within him the stir of the creative. He was, quite singularly enough, a
fine mathematician, which undoubtedly aided him in the study of music as a
science, to which time and balance play such an important part. In fact, I
believe it was the mathematical devil in his brain that came to hold him
within such bare and primitive forms of composition and so, to some extent,
to delimit the wider development of his genius.
"Now as to Foster's drinking habits, however unfortunate they proved to him
they did not affect the quality of his art as he bequeathed it to us.
No one cares to recall the unhappy fortunes of Burns, De Musset, Chopin
or--even in our own time--of O. Henry, and others who might be named. In
none of their productions does the hectic fever of over-stimulation show
itself. No purer, gentler or simpler aspirations were ever expressed in the
varying forms of music and verse than flowed from Foster's pen, even as
penetrating benevolence came from the pen of O. Henry, embittered and
solitary as his life had been. Indeed when we come to regard what the
drinkers of history have done for the world in spite of the artificial
stimulus they craved, we may say with Lincoln as Lincoln said of Grant,
'Send the other generals some of the same brand.'
"Foster was an aristocrat of aristocrats, both by birth and gifts. He
inherited the blood of Richard Steele and of the Kemble family, noted in
English letters and dramatic annals. To these artistic strains he
added undoubtedly the musical temperament of an Italian grandmother or
great-grand-mother. He was a cousin of John Rowan, the distinguished
Kentucky lawyer and senator. Of Foster's family, his father, his brothers,
his sisters were all notable as patriots, as pioneers in engineering, in
commerce and in society. One of his brothers designed and built the early
Pennsylvania Railroad system and died executive vice-president of that
great corporation. Thus he was born to the arts and to social distinction.
But, like many men of the creative temperament, he was born a solitary,
destined to live in a land of dreams. The singular beauty and grace of his
person and countenance, the charm of his voice, manner and conversation,
were for the most part familiar to the limited circle of his immediate
family and friends. To others he was reticent, with a certain hauteur of
timidity, avoiding society and public appearances to the day of his death.
"Now those are the facts about Foster. They certainly do not describe the
'ne'er-do-well of a good family' who hung round barrooms, colored-minstrel
haunts and theater entrances. I can find only one incident to show that
Foster ever went to hear his own songs sung in public. He was essentially a
solitary, who, while keenly observant of and entering sympathizingly into
the facts of life, held himself aloof from immediate contact with its
crowded stream. He was solitary from sensitivity, not from bitterness or
indifference. He made a large fortune for his day with his songs and was a
"Let us come now to the gravamen of my complaint. You charge on the
authority of mere gossip from the late Will S. Hays, that Foster did not
compose his own music, but that he had obtained a collection of unpublished
manuscripts by an unnamed old 'German musician and thus dishonestly,
by pilfering and suppression' palmed off upon the public themes and
compositions which he could not himself have originated. Something like
this has been said about every composer and writer, big and little, whose
personality and habits did not impress his immediate neighbors as implying
the possession of genius. The world usually expects direct inheritance and
a theatric impressiveness of genius in its next-door neighbor before it
accepts the proof of his works alone. For that reason Napoleon's paternity
in Corsica was ascribed to General Maboeuf, and Henry Clay's in early
Kentucky to Patrick Henry. That legend of the 'poor, unknown German
musician' who composed in poverty and secrecy the deathless songs that
have obsessed the world of music lovers, has been told of numberless young
composers on their way to fame, but died out in the blaze of their later
work. I have no doubt they told it of Foster, as they did also of Hays.
And Colonel Hays doubtless repeated it to you as the intimate gossip about
"I have an article written by Colonel Hays and published in and cut from
The Courier-Journal some twelve years after the composer's death, in which
he sketches the life and work of Stephen Collins Foster. In that article he
lays especial stress upon the surprising originality of the Foster themes
and of their musical setting. He praises their distinct American or rather
native inspiration and flavor, and describes from his own knowledge of
Foster how they were 'written from his heart.' No mention or suggestion in
it of any German or other origin for any of those melodies that the world
then and now cherishes as American in costume, but universal in appeal.
While you may have heard something in Schubert's compositions that
suggested something in Foster's most famous song, still I venture to say it
was only a suggestion, such as often arises from the works of composers of
the same general type. Schubert and Foster were both young sentimentalists
and dreamers who must have had similar dreams that found expression in
their similar progressions.
"The German musicians from whom Foster got inspiration to work were
Beethoven, Glueck, Weber, Mozart. He was a student of all of them and of the
Italian school also, as some of his songs show. Foster's first and only
music teacher--except in the 'do-re-mi' exercises in his schoolboy
life--testifies that Foster's musical apprehension was so quick, his
intuitive grasp of its science so complete that after a short time there
was nothing he could teach him of the theory of composition; that his
pupil went straight to the masters and got illustration and discipline for
"This was to be expected of a precocious genius who had written a concerted
piece for flutes at thirteen, who was trying his wings on love songs at
sixteen, and before he was twenty-one had composed several of the most
famous of his American melodies, among them Oh Susannah, Old Dog Tray and
Old Uncle Ned. As in other things he taught himself music, but he studied
it ardently at the shrines of the masters. He became a master of the art of
song writing. If anybody cares to hunt up the piano scores that Verdi made
of songs from his operas in the days of Foster he will find that the great
Italian composer's settings were quite as thin as Foster's and exhibited
not much greater art. It was the fault of the times on the piano, not of
the composers. It was not till long afterward that the color capacities
of the piano were developed. As Foster was no pianist, but rather a pure
melodist, he could not be expected to surpass his times in the management
of the piano, the only 'orchestra' he had. It will not do to regard Foster
as a crude musician. His own scores reveal him as the most artful of
"It is not even presumption to speak of him in the same breath with Verdi.
The breadth and poignancy of Foster's melodies entitle them to the highest
critical respect, as they have received worldwide appreciation from great
musicians and plain music lovers. Wherever he has gone he has reached the
popular heart. Here in the United States he has quickened the pulse beats
of four generations. But this master creator of a country's only native
songs has invariably here at home been apologized for as a sort of
'cornfield musician,' a mere banjo strummer, a hanger-on at barrooms where
minstrel quartets rendered his songs and sent the hat round. The reflection
will react upon his country; it will not detract from the real Foster when
the constructive critic appears to write his brief and unfortunate life. I
am not contending that he was a genius of the highest rank, although he had
the distinction that great genius nearly always achieves, of creating a
school that produced many imitators and established a place apart for
itself in the world's estimation. In ballad writing he did for the United
States what Watteau did for painting in France. As Watteau found a Flemish
school in France and left a French school stamped forever, so Foster found
the United States a home for imitations of English, Irish, German and
Italian songs, and left a native ballad form and melodic strain forever
impressed upon it as pure American.
"He was like Watteau in more than that. Watteau took the elegancies and
fripperies of the corrupt French court and fixed them in art immortal, as
if the moment had been arrested and held in actual motion. Foster took
the curious and melancholy spectacle of African slavery at its height,
superimposed by the most elegant and picturesque social manners this
country has known, at the moment the institution was at its zenith. He
saw the glamor, the humor, the tragedy, the contrasts, the emotional
depths--that lay unplumbed beneath it all. He fixed it there for all time,
for all hearts and minds everywhere. His songs are not only the pictorial
canvas of that time, they are the emotional history of the times. It was
done by a boy who was not prophet enough to foresee the end, or philosopher
enough to demonstrate the conditions, but who was born with the intuition
to feel it all and set it forth deeply and truly from every aspect.
"While Foster wrote many comic songs there is ever in them something of
the melancholy undercurrent that has been detected under the laces and
arabesques of Chopin's nominally frivolous dances. Foster's ballad form was
extremely attenuated, but the melodic content filled it so completely that
it seems to strain at the bounds and must be repeated and repeated to
furnish full gratification to the ear. His form when compared with
the modern ballad's amplitude seems like a Tanagra figurine beside a
Michelangelo statue--but the figurine is as fine in its scope as the statue
is in the greater.
"I hope you will think Foster over and revise him 'upward.'"
All of us need to be admonished to speak no evil of the dead. I am trying
in Looking Backward to square the adjuration with the truth. Perhaps I
should speak only of that which is known directly to myself. It costs me
nothing to accept this statement of Mr. Allison and to incorporate it as an
essential part of the record as far as it relates to the most famous and in
his day the most beloved of American song writers.
Once at a Grand Army encampment General Sherman and I were seated together
on the platform when the band began to play Marching Through Georgia, when
the general said rather impatiently: "I wish I had a dollar for every time
I have had to listen to that blasted tune."
And I answered: "Well, there is another tune about which I might say the
same thing," meaning My Old Kentucky Home.
Neither of us was quite sincere. Both were unconsciously pleased to hear
the familiar strains. At an open-air fiesta in Barcelona some American
friends who made their home there put the bandmaster up to breaking forth
with the dear old melody as I came down the aisle, and I was mightily
pleased. Again at a concert in Lucerne, the band, playing a potpourri of
Swiss songs, interpolated Kentucky's national anthem and the group of us
stood up and sang the chorus.
I do not wonder that men march joyously to battle and death to drum and
fife squeaking and rattling The Girl I Left Behind Me. It may be a long
way to Tipperary, but it is longer to the end of the tether that binds the
heart of man to the cradle songs of his nativity. With the cradle songs of
America the name of Stephen Collins Foster "is immortal bound," and I would
no more dishonor his memory than that of Robert Burns or the author of The
Chapter the Twenty-Second
Theodore Roosevelt--His Problematic Character--He Offers Me an
Appointment--His _Bonhomie_ and Chivalry--Proud of His Rebel Kin
It is not an easy nor yet a wholly congenial task to write--truthfully,
intelligently and frankly to write--about Theodore Roosevelt. He belonged
to the category of problematical characters. A born aristocrat, he at no
time took the trouble to pose as a special friend of the people; a born
leader, he led with a rough unsparing hand. He was the soul of controversy.
To one who knew him from his childhood as I did, always loving him and
rarely agreeing with him, it was plain to see how his most obvious faults
commended him to the multitude and made for a popularity that never quite
As poorly as I rate the reign of majorities I prefer it to the one-man
power, either elective or dynastic. The scheme of a third term in the
presidency for General Grant seemed to me a conspiracy though with many of
its leaders I was on terms of affectionate intimacy. I fought and helped
to kill in 1896 the unborn scheme to give Mr. Cleveland a third term.
Inevitably as the movement for the retention of Theodore Roosevelt beyond
the time already fixed began to show itself in 1907, my pen was primed
against it and I wrote variously and voluminously.
There appeared in one of the periodicals for January, 1908, a sketch of
mine which but for a statement issued concurrently from the White House
would have attracted more attention than it did. In this I related how at
Washington just before the War of Sections I had a musical pal--the niece
of a Southern senator--who had studied in Paris, been a protegee of the
Empress Eugenie and become an out-and-out imperialist. Louis Napoleon was
her ideal statesman. She not only hated the North but accepted as gospel
truth all the misleading theories of the South: that cotton was king; that
slavery was a divine institution; that in any enterprise one Southern man
was a match for six Northern men.
On these points we had many contentions. When the break came she went
South with her family. The last I saw of her was crossing Long Bridge in a
lumbering family carriage waving a tiny Confederate flag.
Forty-five years intervened. I had heard of her from time to time wandering
aimlessly over Europe, but had not met her until the preceding winter in a
famous Southern homestead. There she led me into a rose garden, and seated
beneath its clustered greeneries she said with an air of triumph, "Now you
see, my dear old friend, that I was right and you were wrong all the time."
Startled, and altogether forgetful, I asked in what way.
"Why," she answered, "at last the South is coming to its own."
Still out of rapport with her thought I said something about the
obliteration of sectionalism and the arrival of political freedom and
general prosperity. She would none of this.
[Illustration: Henry Watterson (Photograph taken in Florida)]
"I mean," she abruptly interposed, "that the son of Martha Bullock has come
to his own and he will rescue us from the mudsills of the North."
She spoke as if our former discussions had been but yesterday. Then I gave
her the right of way, interjecting a query now and then to give emphasis to
her theme, while she unfolded the plan which seemed to her so simple and
easy; God's own will; the national destiny, first a third term, and then
life tenure a la Louis Napoleone for Theodore Roosevelt, the son of Martha
Bullock, the nephew of our great admiral, who was to redress all the wrongs
of the South and bring the Yankees to their just deserts at last.
"If," I ended my sketch, "out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, why not
out of the brain of this crazed old woman of the South?"
Early in the following April I came from my winter home in Florida to the
national capital, and the next day was called by the President to the White
"The first thing I want to ask," said he, "is whether that old woman was a
real person or a figment of your imagination?"
"She was a figment of my imagination," I answered, "but you put her out of
business with a single punch. Why didn't you hold back your statement a
bit? If you had done so there was room for lots of sport ahead."
He was in no mood for joking. "Henry Watterson," he said, "I want to talk
to you seriously about this third-term business. I will not deny that I
have thought of the thing--thought of it a great deal." Then he proceeded
to relate from his point of view the state of the country and the immediate
situation. He spoke without reserve of his relations to the nearest
associated public men, of what were and what were not his personal and
party obligations, his attitude toward the political questions of the
moment, and ended by saying, "What do you make of all this?"
"Mr. President," I replied, "you know that I am your friend, and as your
friend I tell you that if you go out of here the fourth of next March
placing your friend Taft in your place you will make a good third to
Washington and Lincoln; but if you allow these wild fellows willy-nilly
to induce you, in spite of your declaration, to accept the nomination,
substantially for a third term, all issues will be merged in that issue,
and in my judgment you will not carry a state in the Union."
As if much impressed and with a show of feeling he said: "It may be so. At
any rate I will not do it. If the convention nominates me I will promptly
send my declination. If it nominates me and adjourns I will call it
together again and it will have to name somebody else."
As an illustration of the implacability which pursued him I may mention
that among many leading Republicans to whom I related the incident most
of them discredited his sincerity, one of them--a man of national
importance--expressing the opinion that all along he was artfully playing
for the nomination. This I do not believe. Perhaps he was never quite fixed
in his mind. The presidency is a wondrous lure. Once out of the White
House--what else and what----?
Upon his return from one of his several foreign journeys a party of some
hundred or more of his immediate personal friends gave him a private dinner
at a famous uptown restaurant. I was placed next him at table. It goes
without saying that we had all sorts of a good time--he Caesar and I
Brutus--the prevailing joke the entente between the two.
"I think," he began his very happy speech, "that I am the bravest man
that ever lived, for here I have been sitting three hours by the side of
Brutus--have repeatedly seen him clutch his knife--without the blink of an
eye or the turn of a feature."
To which in response when my turn came I said: "You gentlemen seem to be
surprised that there should be so perfect an understanding between our
guest and myself. But there is nothing new or strange in that. It goes
back, indeed, to his cradle and has never been disturbed throughout the
intervening years of political discussion--sometimes acrimonious. At the
top of the acclivity of his amazing career--in the very plenitude of his
eminence and power--let me tell you that he offered me one of the most
honorable and distinguished appointments within his gift."
"Tell them about that, Marse Henry," said he.
"With your permission, Mr. President, I will," I said, and continued: "The
centenary of the West Point Military Academy was approaching. I was at
dinner with my family at a hotel in Washington when General Corbin joined
us. 'Will you,' he abruptly interjected, 'accept the chairmanship of the
board of visitors to the academy this coming June?'
"'What do you want of me?' I asked.
"'It is the academy's centenary, which we propose to celebrate, and we want
"'General Corbin,' said I, 'you are coming at me in a most enticing way.
I know all about West Point. Here at Washington I grew up with it. I have
been fighting legislative battles for the Army all my life. That you
Yankees should come to a ragged old rebel like me for such a service is a
distinction indeed, and I feel immensely honored. But which page of the
court calendar made you a plural? Whom do you mean by "we"?'
"'Why,' he replied in serio-comic vein, 'the President, the Secretary of
War and Me, myself.'
"I promised him to think it over and give him an answer. Next day I
received a letter from the President, making the formal official tender and
expressing the hope that I would not decline it. Yet how could I accept it
with the work ahead of me? It was certain that if I became a part of the
presidential junket and passed a week in the delightful company promised
me, I would be unfit for the loyal duty I owed my belongings and my party,
and so reluctantly--more reluctantly than I can tell you--I declined,
obliging them to send for Gen. Horace Porter and bring him over from across
the ocean, where he was ably serving as Ambassador to France. I need
not add how well that gifted and versatile gentleman discharged the
distinguished and pleasing duty."
The last time I met Theodore Roosevelt was but a little while before his
death. A small party of us, Editor Moore, of Pittsburgh, and Mr. Riggs,
of the New York Central, at his invitation had a jolly midday breakfast,
extending far into the afternoon. I never knew him happier or heartier.
His jocund spirit rarely failed him. He enjoyed life and wasted no time on
trivial worries, hit-or-miss, the keynote to his thought.
The Dutch blood of Holland and the cavalier blood of England mingled in
his veins in fair proportion. He was especially proud of the uncle, his
mother's brother, the Southern admiral, head of the Confederate naval
organization in Europe, who had fitted out the rebel cruisers and sent them
to sea. And well he might be, for a nobler American never lived. At the
close of the War of Sections Admiral Bullock had in his possession some
half million dollars of Confederate money. Instead of appropriating this to
his own use, as without remark or hindrance he might have done, he turned
it over to the Government of the United States, and died a poor man.
The inconsistencies and quarrels in which Theodore Roosevelt was now and
again involved were largely temperamental. His mind was of that order which
is prone to believe what it wants to believe. He did not take much time to
think. He leaped at conclusions, and from his premise his conclusion was
usually sound. His tastes were domestic, his pastime, when not at his
books, field sports.
He was not what might be called convivial, though fond of good
company--very little wine affecting him--so that a certain self-control
became second nature to him.
To be sure, he had no conscientious or doctrinal scruples about a third
term. He had found the White House a congenial abode, had accepted the
literal theory that his election in 1908 would not imply a third but a
second term, and he wanted to remain. In point of fact I have an impression
that, barring Jackson and Polk, most of those who have got there were loath
to give it up. We know that Grant was, and I am sure that Cleveland was. We
owe a great debt to Washington, because if a third why not a fourth term?
And then life tenure after the manner of the Caesars and Cromwells of
history, and especially the Latin-Americans--Bolivar, Rosas and Diaz?
Away back in 1873, after a dinner, Mr. Blaine took me into his den and told
me that it was no longer a surmise but a fact that the group about General
Grant, who had just been reflected by an overwhelming majority, was
maneuvering for a third term. To me this was startling, incredible.
Returning to my hotel I saw a light still burning in the room of Senator
Morton, of Indiana, and rapping at the door I was bidden to enter.
Without mentioning how it had reached me, I put the proposition to him.
"Certainly," he said, "it is true."
The next day, in a letter to the Courier-Journal, I reduced what I had
heard to writing. Reading this over it seemed so sensational that I added a
closing paragraph, meant to qualify what I had written and to imply that I
had not gone quite daft.
"These things," I wrote, "may sound queer to the ear of the country. They
may have visited me in my dreams; they may, indeed, have come to me betwixt
the sherry and the champagne, but nevertheless I do aver that they are
buzzing about here in the minds of many very serious and not unimportant
Never was a well-intentioned scribe so berated and ridiculed as I, never a
simple news gatherer so discredited. Democratic and Republican newspapers
vied with one another which could say crossest things and laugh loudest.
One sentence especially caught the newspaper risibilities of the time, and
it was many a year before the phrase "between the sherry and the champagne"
ceased to pursue me. That any patriotic American, twice elevated to the
presidency, could want a third term, could have the hardihood to seek one
was inconceivable. My letter was an insult to General Grant and proof of my
own lack of intelligence and restraint. They lammed me, laughed at me, good
and strong. On each successive occasion of recurrence I have encountered
the same criticism.
Chapter the Twenty-Third
The Actor and the Journalist--The Newspaper and the State--Joseph
Jefferson--His Personal and Artistic Career--Modest Character and
The journalist and the player have some things in common. Each turns night
into day. I have known rather intimately all the eminent English-speaking
actors of my time from Henry Irving and Charles Wyndham to Edwin Booth and
Joseph Jefferson, from Charlotte Cushman to Helena Modjeska. No people are
quite so interesting as stage people.
During nearly fifty years my life and the life of Joseph Jefferson ran
close upon parallel lines. He was eleven years my senior; but after
the desultory acquaintance of a man and a boy we came together under
circumstances which obliterated the disparity of age and established
between us a lasting bond of affection. His wife, Margaret, had died, and
he was passing through Washington with the little brood of children she had
It made the saddest spectacle I had ever seen. As I recall it after more
than sixty years, the scene of silent grief, of unutterable helplessness,
has still a haunting power over me, the oldest lad not eight years of age,
the youngest a girl baby in arms, the young father aghast before the sudden
tragedy which had come upon him. There must have been something in my
sympathy which drew him toward me, for on his return a few months later
he sought me out and we fell into the easy intercourse of established
I was recovering from an illness, and every day he would come and read by
my bedside. I had not then lost the action of one of my hands, putting an
end to a course of musical study I had hoped to develop into a career. He
was infinitely fond of music and sufficiently familiar with the old masters
to understand and enjoy them. He was an artist through and through,
possessing a sweet nor yet an uncultivated voice--a blend between a low
tenor and a high baritone--I was almost about to write a "contralto," it
was so soft and liquid. Its tones in speech retained to the last their
charm. Who that heard them shall ever forget them?
Early in 1861 my friend Jefferson came to me and said: "There is going to
be a war of the sections. I am not a warrior. I am neither a Northerner
nor a Southerner. I cannot bring myself to engage in bloodshed, or to take
sides. I have near and dear ones North and South. I am going away and I
shall stay away until the storm blows over. It may seem to you unpatriotic,
and it is, I know, unheroic. I am not a hero; I am, I hope, an artist. My
world is the world of art, and I must be true to that; it is my patriotism,
my religion. I can do no manner of good here, and I am going away."
At that moment statesmen were hopefully estimating the chances of a
peaceful adjustment and solution of the sectional controversy. With the
prophet instinct of the artist he knew better. Though at no time taking an
active interest in politics or giving expression to party bias of any kind,
his personal associations led him into a familiar knowledge of the trend of
political opinion and the portent of public affairs, and I can truly say
that during the fifty years that passed thereafter I never discussed any
topic of current interest or moment with him that he did not throw upon
it the side lights of a luminous understanding, and at the same time an
impartial and intelligent judgment.
His mind was both reflective and radiating. His humor though perennial was
subdued; his wit keen and spontaneous, never acrid or wounding. His speech
abounded with unconscious epigram. He had his beliefs and stood by them;
but he was never aggressive. Cleaner speech never fell from the lips of
man. I never heard him use a profanity. We once agreed between ourselves to
draw a line across the salacious stories so much in vogue during our day;
the wit must exceed the dirt; where the dirt exceeded the wit we would none
He was a singularly self-respecting man; genuinely a modest man. The
actor is supposed to be so familiar with the pubic as to be proof against
surprises. Before his audience he must be master of himself, holding the
situation and his art by the firmest grip. He must simulate, not experience
emotion, the effect referable to the seeming, never to the actuality
involving the realization.
Mr. Jefferson held to this doctrine and applied it rigorously. On a certain
occasion he was playing Caleb Plummer. In the scene between the old
toy-maker and his blind daughter, when the father discovers the dreadful
result of his dissimulation--an awkward hitch; and, the climax quite
thwarted, the curtain came down. I was standing at the wings.
"Did you see that?" he said as he brushed by me, going to his
"No," said I, following him. "What was it?"
He turned, his eyes still wet and his voice choked. "I broke down," said
he; "completely broke down. I turned away from the audience to recover
myself. But I failed and had the curtain rung."
The scene had been spoiled because the actor had been overcome by a sudden
flood of real feeling, whereas he was to render by his art the feeling of
a fictitious character and so to communicate this to his audience. Caleb's
cue was tears, but not Jefferson's.
On another occasion I saw his self-possession tried in a different way. We
were dining with a gentleman who had overpartaken of his own hospitality.
Mr. Murat Halstead was of the company. There was also a German of
distinction, whose knowledge of English was limited. The Rip Van Winkle
craze was at its height. After sufficiently impressing the German with the
rare opportunity he was having in meeting a man so famous as Mr. Jefferson,
our host, encouraged by Mr. Halstead, and I am afraid not discouraged by
me, began to urge Mr. Jefferson to give us, as he said, "a touch of his
mettle," and failing to draw the great comedian out he undertook himself to
give a few descriptive passages from the drama which was carrying the
town by storm. Poor Jefferson! He sat like an awkward boy, helpless and
blushing, the German wholly unconscious of the fun or even comprehending
just what was happening--Halstead and I maliciously, mercilessly enjoying
I never heard Mr. Jefferson make a recitation or, except in the singing of
a song before his voice began to break, make himself a part of any private
entertainment other than that of a spectator and guest.
He shrank from personal displays of every sort. Even in his younger days he
rarely "gagged," or interpolated, upon the stage. Yet he did not lack for
a ready wit. One time during the final act of Rip Van Winkle, a young
countryman in the gallery was so carried away that he quite lost his
bearings and seemed to be about to climb over the outer railing. The
audience, spellbound by the actor, nevertheless saw the rustic, and its
attention was being divided between the two when Jefferson reached that
point in the action of the piece where Rip is amazed by the docility of his
wife under the ill usage of her second husband. He took in the situation at
Casting his eye directly upon the youth in the gallery, he uttered the
lines as if addressing them directly to him, "Well, I would never have
believed it if I had not seen it."
The poor fellow, startled, drew back from his perilous position, and the
audience broke into a storm of applause.
Joseph Jefferson was a Swedenborgian in his religious belief. At one
time too extreme a belief in spiritualism threatened to cloud his sound,
wholesome understanding. As he grew older and happier and passed out
from the shadow of his early tragedy he fell away from the more sinister
influence the supernatural had attained over his imagination. One time in
Washington I had him to breakfast to meet the Chief Justice and Mr. Justice
Matthews and Mr. Carlisle, the newly-elected Speaker of the House. It was a
rainy Sunday, and it was in my mind to warn him that our company was made
up of hard-headed lawyers not apt to be impressed by fairy tales and
ghost stories, and to suggest that he cut the spiritualism in case the
conversation fell, as was likely, into the speculative. I forgot, or
something hindered, and, sure enough, the question of second sight and mind
reading came up, and I said to myself: "Lord, now we'll have it." But it
was my kinsman, Stanley Matthews, who led off with a clairvoyant experience
in his law practice. I began to be reassured. Mr. Carlisle followed with a
most mathematical account of some hobgoblins he had encountered in his
law practice. Finally the Chief Justice, Mr. Waite, related a series of
incidents so fantastic and incredible, yet detailed with the precision and
lucidity of a master of plain statement, as fairly to stagger the most
believing ghostseer. Then I said to myself again: "Let her go, Joe, no
matter what you tell now you will fall below the standard set by these
professional perfecters of pure reason, and are safe to do your best, or
your worst." I think he held his own, however.
Joseph Jefferson came to his artistic spurs slowly but surely, being nearly
thirty years of age when he got his chance, and therefore wholly equal to
it and prepared for it.
William E. Burton stood and had stood for twenty-five years the recognized,
the reigning king of comedy in America. He was a master of his craft as
well as a leader in society and letters. To look at him when he came
upon the stage was to laugh; yet he commanded tears almost as readily as
laughter. In New York City particularly he ruled the roost, and could and
did do that which had cost another his place. He began to take too many
liberties with the public favor and, truth to say, was beginning to be both
coarse and careless. People were growing restive under ministrations which
were at times little less than impositions upon their forbearance. They
wanted something if possible as strong, but more refined, and in the person
of the leading comedy man of Laura Keene's company, a young actor by the
name of Jefferson, they got it.
Both Mr. Sothern and Mr. Jefferson have told the story of Tom Taylor's
extravaganza, "Our American Cousin," in which the one as Dundreary, the
other as Asa Trenchard, rose to almost instant popularity and fame. I shall
not repeat it except to say that Jefferson's Asa Trenchard was unlike any
other the English or American stage has known. He played the raw Yankee
boy, not in low comedy at all, but made him innocent and ignorant as a
well-born Green Mountain lad might be, never a bumpkin; and in the scene
when Asa tells his sweetheart the bear story and whilst pretending to light
his cigar burns the will, he left not a dry eye in the house.
New York had never witnessed, never divined anything in pathos and humor
so exquisite. Burton and his friends struggled for a season, but Jefferson
completely knocked them out. Even had Burton lived, and had there been no
diverting war of sections to drown all else, Jefferson would have come to
his growth and taken his place as the first serio-comic actor of his time.
Rip Van Winkle was an evolution. Jefferson's half-brother, Charles Burke,
had put together a sketchy melodrama in two acts and had played in it, was
playing in it when he died. After his Trenchard, Jefferson turned himself
loose in all sorts of parts, from Diggory to Mazeppa, a famous burlesque,
which he did to a turn, imitating the mock heroics of the feminine horse
marines, so popular in the equestrian drama of the period, Adah Isaacs
Menken, the beautiful and ill-fated, at their head. Then he produced
a version of Nicholas Nickleby, in which his Newman Noggs took a more
ambitious flight. These, however, were but the avant-couriers of the
Charles Burke's piece held close to the lines of Irving's legend. When the
vagabond returns from the mountains after the twenty years' sleep Gretchen
is dead. The apex is reached when the old man, sitting dazed at a table in
front of the tavern in the village of Falling Water, asks after Derrick Van
Beekman and Nick Vedder and other of his cronies. At last, half twinkle of
humor and half glimmer of dread, he gets himself to the point of asking
after Dame Van Winkle, and is told that she has been dead these ten years.
Then like a flash came that wonderful Jeffersonian change of facial
expression, and as the white head drops upon the arms stretched before him
on the table he says: "Well, she led me a hard life, a hard life, but she
was the wife of my bosom, she was _meine frau!_"
I did not see the revised, or rather the newly-created and written, Rip
Van Winkle until Mr. Jefferson brought it to America and was playing it at
Niblo's Garden in New York. Between himself and Dion Boucicault a drama
carrying all the possibilities, all the lights and shadows of his genius
had been constructed. In the first act he sang a drinking song to a wing
accompaniment delightfully, adding much to the tone and color of the
situation. The exact reversal of the Lear suggestion in the last act was an
inspiration, his own and not Boucicault's. The weird scene in the mountains
fell in admirably with a certain weird note in the Jefferson genius, and
supplied the needed element of variety.
I always thought it a good acting play under any circumstances, but, in
his hands, matchless. He thought himself that the piece, as a piece, and
regardless of his own acting, deserved better of the critics than they were
always willing to give it. Assuredly, no drama that ever was written, as he
played it, ever took such a hold upon the public. He rendered it to three
generations, and to a rising, not a falling, popularity, drawing to the
very last undiminished audiences.
Because of this unexampled run he was sometimes described by unthinking
people as a one-part actor. Nothing could be farther from the truth. He
possessed uncommon versatility. That after twenty years of the new Rip Van
Winkle, when he was past fifty years of age, he could come back to such
parts as Caleb Plummer and Acres is proof of this. He need not have done so
at all. Carrying a pension roll of dependents aggregating fifteen or twenty
thousand a year for more than a quarter of a century, Rip would still have
sufficed his requirements. It was his love for his art that took him to The
Cricket and The Rivals, and at no inconsiderable cost to himself.
I have heard ill-natured persons, some of them envious actors, say that he
did nothing for the stage.
He certainly did not make many contributions to its upholstery. He was in
no position to emulate Sir Henry Irving in forcing and directing the public
taste. But he did in America quite as much as Sir Charles Wyndham and
Sir Henry Irving in England to elevate the personality, the social and
intellectual standing of the actor and the stage, effecting in a lifetime a
revolution in the attitude of the people and the clergy of both countries
to the theater and all things in it. This was surely enough for one man in
any craft or country.
He was always a good stage speaker. Late in life he began to speak
elsewhere, and finally to lecture. His success pleased him immensely. The
night of the Sunday afternoon charity for the Newsboys' Home in Louisville,
when the promise of a talk from him had filled the house to overflowing,
he was like a boy who had come off from a college occasion with all the
honors. Indeed, the degrees of Harvard and Yale, which had reached him both
unexpectedly and unsolicited, gave him a pleasure quite apart from the
vanity they might have gratified in another; he regarded them, and justly,
as the recognition at once of his profession and of his personal character.
I never knew a man whose moral sensibilities were more acute. He loved the
respectable. He detested the unclean. He was just as attractive off the
stage as upon it, because he was as unaffected and real in his personality
as he was sincere and conscientious in his public representations, his
lovely nature showing through his art in spite of him. His purpose was to
fill the scene and forget himself.
The English newspapers accompanied the tidings of Mr. Jefferson's death
with rather sparing estimates of his eminence and his genius, though his
success in London, where he was well known, had been unequivocal. Indeed,
himself, alone with Edwin Booth and Mary Anderson, may be said to complete
the list of those Americans who have attained any real recognition in the
British metropolis. The Times spoke of him as "an able if not a great
actor." If Joseph Jefferson was not a great actor I should like some
competent person to tell me what actor of our time could be so described.
Two or three of the journals of Paris referred to him as "the American
Coquelin." It had been apter to describe Coquelin as the French Jefferson.
I never saw Frederic Lemaitre. But, him apart, I have seen all the
eccentric comedians, the character actors of the last fifty years, and, in
spell power, in precision and deftness of touch, in acute, penetrating,
all-embracing and all-embodying intelligence and grasp, I should place
Joseph Jefferson easily at their head.
Shakespeare was his Bible. The stage had been his cradle. He continued all
his days a student. In him met the meditative and the observing faculties.
In his love of fishing, his love of painting, his love of music we see the
brooding, contemplative spirit joined to the alert in mental force and
foresight when he addressed himself to the activities and the objectives
of the theater. He was a thorough stage manager, skillful, patient and
upright. His company was his family. He was not gentler with the children
and grandchildren he ultimately drew about him than he had been with the
young men and young women who had preceded them in his employment and
He was nowise ashamed of his calling. On the contrary, he was proud of it.
His mother had lived and died an actress. He preferred that his progeny
should follow in the footsteps of their forebears even as he had done.
It is beside the purpose to inquire, as was often done, what might have
happened had he undertaken the highest flights of tragedy; one might as
well discuss the relation of a Dickens to a Shakespeare. Sir Henry
Irving and Sir Charles Wyndham in England, M. Coquelin in France, his
contemporaries--each had his _metier_. They were perfect in their art
and unalike in their art. No comparison between them can be justly drawn.
I was witness to the rise of all three of them, and have followed them
in their greatest parts throughout their most brilliant and eminent and
successful careers, and can say of each as of Mr. Jefferson:
_More than King can no man be--Whether he
rule in Cyprus or in Dreams._
There shall be Kings of Thule after kings are gone. The actor dies and
leaves no copy; his deeds are writ in water, only his name survives upon
tradition's tongue, and yet, from Betterton and Garrick to Irving, from
Macklin and Quin to Wyndham and Jefferson, how few!
Chapter the Twenty-Fourth
The Writing of Memoirs--Some Characteristics of Carl Shurz--Sam
Bowles--Horace White and the Mugwumps
Talleyrand was so impressed by the world-compelling character of the
memoirs he had prepared for posterity that he fixed an interdict of more
than fifty years upon the date set for their publication, and when at
last the bulky tomes made their appearance, they excited no especial
interest--certainly created no sensation--and lie for the most part dusty
upon the shelves of the libraries that contain them. For a different
reason, Henry Ward Beecher put a time limit upon the volume, or volumes,
which will tell us, among other things, all about one of the greatest
scandals of modern times; and yet how few people now recall it or care
anything about the dramatis personae and the actual facts! Metternich, next
after Napoleon and Talleyrand, was an important figure in a stirring epoch.
He, too, indicted an autobiography, which is equally neglected among the
books that are sometimes quoted and extolled, but rarely read. Rousseau,
the half insane, and Barras, the wholly vicious, have twenty readers where
Talleyrand and Metternich have one.
From this point of view, the writing of memoirs, excepting those of the
trivial French School or gossiping letters and diaries of the Pepys-Walpole
variety, would seem an unprofitable task for a great man's undertaking.
Boswell certainly did for Johnson what the thunderous old doctor could not
have done for himself. Nevertheless, from the days of Caesar to the days
of Sherman and Lee, the captains of military and senatorial and literary
industry have regaled themselves, if they have not edified the public, by
the narration of their own stories; and, I dare say, to the end of time,
interest in one's self, and the mortal desire to linger yet a little longer
on the scene--now and again, as in the case of General Grant, the assurance
of honorable remuneration making needful provision for others--will move
those who have cut some figure in the world to follow the wandering Celt in
the wistful hope--
_Around my fire an evening group to draw,
And tell of all I felt and all I saw._
Something like this occurs to me upon a reperusal of the unfinished memoirs
of my old and dear friend, Carl Schurz. Assuredly few men had better
warrant for writing about themselves or a livelier tale to tell than the
famous German-American, who died leaving that tale unfinished. No man in
life was more misunderstood and maligned. There was nothing either erratic
or conceited about Schurz, nor was he more pragmatic than is common to
the possessor of positive opinions along with the power to make their
The actual facts of his public life do not anywhere show that his politics
shifted with his own interests. On the contrary, he was singularly
regardless of his interests where his convictions interposed. Though an
alien, and always an alien, he possessed none of the shifty traits of the
soldier of fortune. Never in his career did he crook the pregnant hinges of
the knee before any worldly throne of grace or flatter any mob that place
might follow fawning. His great talents had only to lend themselves to
party uses to get their full requital. He refused them equally to Grant in
the White House and the multitude in Missouri, going his own gait, which
could be called erratic only by the conventional, to whom regularity is
everything and individuality nothing.
Schurz was first of all and above all an orator. His achievements on the
platform and in the Senate were undeniable. He was unsurpassed in debate.
He had no need to exploit himself. The single chapter in his life on which
light was desirable was the military episode. The cruel and false saying,
"I fight mit Sigel und runs mit Schurz," obviously the offspring of
malignity, did mislead many people, reenforced by the knowledge that Schurz
was not an educated soldier. How thoroughly he disposes of this calumny his
memoirs attest. Fuller, more convincing vindication could not be asked of
any man; albeit by those familiar with the man himself it could not be
doubted that he had both courage and aptitude for military employment.
A philosopher and an artist, he was drawn by circumstance into the vortex
of affairs. Except for the stirring events of 1848, he might have lived
and died a professor at Bonn or Heidelberg. If he had pursued his musical
studies at Leipsic he must have become a master of the piano keyboard. As
it was, he played Schumann and Chopin creditably. The rescue of Kinkel,
the flight from the fatherland, the mild Bohemianizing in Paris and London
awakened within him the spirit of action rather than of adventure.
There was nothing of the Dalgetty about him; too reflective and too
accomplished. His early marriage attests a domestic trend, from which he
never departed; though an idealist in his public aspirations and aims he
was a sentimentalist in his home life and affections. Genial in temperament
and disposition, his personal habit was moderation itself.
He was a German. Never did a man live so long in a foreign country and take
on so few of its thoughts and ways. He threw himself into the anti-slavery
movement upon the crest of the wave; the flowing sea carried him quickly
from one distinction to another; the ebb tide, which found him in the
Senate of the United States, revealed to his startled senses the creeping,
crawling things beneath the surface; partyism rampant, tyrannous and
corrupt; a self-willed soldier in the White House; a Blaine, a Butler and a
Garfield leading the Representatives, a Cameron and a Conkling leading the
Senate; single-minded disinterestedness, pure unadulterated conviction,
Jobs and jobbing flourished on every side. An impossible scheme of
reconstruction was trailing its slow, putrescent length along. The revenue
service was thick with thieves, the committees of Congress were packed with
mercenaries. Money-making in high places had become the order of the day.
Was it for this that oceans of patriotism, of treasure and of blood had
been poured out? Was it for this that he had fought with tongue and pen and
There was Sumner--the great Sumner--who had quarreled with Grant and Fish,
to keep him company and urge him on. There was the Tribune, the puissant
Tribune--two of them, one in New York and the other in Chicago--to give
him countenance. There was need of liberalizing and loosening things in
Missouri, for which he sat in the Senate--they could not go on forever half
the best elements in the State disfranchised.
Thus the Liberal Movement of 1872.
Schurz went to Cincinnati elate with hope. He was an idealist--not quite
yet a philosopher. He had his friends about him. Sam Bowles--the first
newspaper politician of his day, with none of the handicaps carried by
Raymond and Forney--a man keen of insight and foresight, fertile of
resources, and not afraid--stood foremost among them. Next came Horace
White. Doric in his simplicity like a marble shaft, and to the outer eye
as cold as marble, but below a man of feeling, conviction and tenacity, a
working journalist and a doughty doctrinaire. A little group of such men
formed itself about Schurz--then only forty-three years old--to what end?
Why, Greeley, Horace Greeley, the bellwether of abolitionism, the king bee
of protectionism, the man of fads and isms and the famous "old white hat."
To some of us it was laughable. To Schurz it was tragical. A bridge had to
be constructed for him to pass--for retrace his steps he could not--and,
as it were, blindfolded, he had to be backed upon this like a mule aboard
a train of cars. I sometimes wonder what might have happened if Schurz had
then and there resigned his seat in the Senate, got his brood together and
returned to Germany. I dare say he would have been welcomed by Bismarck.
Certainly there was no lodgment for him thenceforward in American politics.
The exigencies of 1876-77 made him a provisional place in the Hayes
Administration; but, precisely as the Democrats of Missouri could put such
a man to no use, the Republicans at large could find no use for him. He
seemed a bull in a china shop to the political organization he honored with
a preference wholly intellectual, and having no stomach for either extreme,
he became a Mugwump.
He was a German. He was an artist. By nature a doctrinaire, he had become
a philosopher. He could never wholly adjust himself to his environment.
He lectured Lincoln, and Lincoln, perceiving his earnest truthfulness and
genuine qualities, forgave him his impertinence, nor ceased to regard him
with the enduring affection one might have for an ardent, aspiring and
lovable boy. He was repellant to Grant, who could not and perhaps did
not desire to understand him.... To him the Southerners were always the
red-faced, swashbuckling slave-drivers he had fancied and pictured them in
the days of his abolition oratory. More and more he lived in a rut of his
own fancies, wise in books and counsels, gentle in his relations with the
few who enjoyed his confidence; to the last a most captivating personality.
Though fastidious, Schurz was not intolerant. Yet he was hard to
convince--tenacious of his opinions--courteous but insistent in debate. He
was a German; a German Herr Doktor of Music, of Letters and of Common Law.
During an intimacy of more than thirty years we scarcely ever wholly agreed
about any public matter; differing about even the civil service and the
tariff. But I admired him hugely and loved him heartily.
I had once a rather amusing encounter with him. There was a dinner at
Delmonico's, from whose program of post-prandial oratory I had purposely
caused my own name to be omitted. Indeed, I had had with a lady a wager I
very much wished to win that I would not speak. General Grant and I went in
together, and during the repast he said that the only five human beings in
the world whom he detested were actually here at table.
Of course, Schurz was one of these. He was the last on the list of speakers
and, curiously enough--the occasion being the consideration of certain
ways and means for the development of the South--and many leading
Southerners present--he composed his speech out of an editorial tour de
force he was making in the Evening Post on The Homicidal Side of Southern
Life. Before he had proceeded half through General Grant, who knew of my
wager, said, "You'll lose your bet," and, it being one o'clock in the
morning, I thought so too, and did not care whether I won or lost it. When
he finished, the call on me was spontaneous and universal. "Now give it to
him good," said General Grant.
And I did; I declared--the reporters were long since gone--that there had
not been a man killed amiss in Kentucky since the war; that where one had
been killed two should have been; and, amid roars of laughter which gave me
time to frame some fresh absurdity, I delivered a prose paean to murder.
Nobody seemed more pleased than Schurz himself, and as we came
away--General Grant having disappeared--he put his arm about me like a
schoolboy and said: "Well, well, I had no idea you were so bloody-minded."
Chapter the Twenty-Fifth
Every Trade Has Its Tricks--I Play One on William McKinley--Far Away
Party Politics and Political Issues
There are tricks in every trade. The tariff being the paramount issue of
the day, I received a tempting money offer from Philadelphia to present my
side of the question, but when the time fixed was about to arrive I found
myself billed for a debate with no less an adversary than William McKinley,
protectionist leader in the Lower House of Congress. We were the best of
friends and I much objected to a joint meeting. The parties, however, would
take no denial, and it was arranged that we should be given alternate
dates. Then it appeared that the designated thesis read: "Which political
party offers for the workingman the best solution of the tariff problem?"
Here was a poser. It required special preparation, for which I had not the
leisure. I wanted the stipend, but was not willing--scarcely able--to pay
so much for it. I was about to throw the engagement over when a lucky
thought struck me. I had a cast-off lecture entitled Money and Morals. It
had been rather popular. Why might I not put a head and tail to this--a
foreword and a few words in conclusion--and make it meet the purpose and
serve the occasion?
When the evening arrived there was a great audience. Half of the people had
come to applaud, the other half to antagonize. I was received, however,
with what seemed a united acclaim. When the cheering had ceased, with the
blandest air I began:
"In that chapter of the history of Ireland which was reserved for the
consideration of snakes, the historian, true to the solecism as well as the
brevity of Irish wit, informs us that 'there are no snakes in Ireland.'
"I am afraid that on the present occasion I shall have to emulate this
flight of the Celtic imagination. I find myself billed to speak from a
Democratic standpoint as to which party offers the best practical means for
the benefit of the workingmen of the country. If I am to discharge with
fidelity the duty thus assigned me, I must begin by repudiating the text in
toto, because the Democratic Party recognizes no political agency for one
class which is not equally open to all classes. The bulwark and belltower
of its faith, the source and resource of its strength are laid in the
declaration, 'Freedom for all, special privileges to none,' which applied
to practical affairs would deny to self-styled workingmen, organized into
a cooeperative society, any political means not enjoyed by every other
organized cooeperative society, and by each and every citizen, individually,
to himself and his heirs and assigns, forever.
"But in a country like ours, what right has any body of men to get together
and, labelling themselves workingmen, to talk about political means and
practical ends exclusive to themselves? Who among us has the single
right to claim for himself, and the likes of him, the divine title of a
workingman? We are all workingmen, the earnest plodding scholar in his
library, surrounded by the luxury and comfort which his learning and his
labor have earned for him, no less than the poor collier in the mine, with
darkness and squalor closing him round about, and want maybe staring him in
the face, yet--if he be a true man--with a little bird singing ever in his
heart the song of hope and cheer which cradled the genius of Stephenson and
Arkwright and the long procession of inventors, lowly born, to whom
the world owes the glorious achievements of this, the greatest of the
centuries. We are all workingmen--the banker, the minister, the lawyer, the
doctor--toiling from day to day, and it may be we are well paid for our
toil, to represent and to minister to the wants of the time no less than
the farmer and the farmer's boy, rising with the lark to drive the team
afield, and to dally with land so rich it needs to be but tickled with a
hoe to laugh a harvest.
"Having somewhat of an audacious fancy, I have sometimes in moments of
exuberance ventured upon the conceit that our Jupiter Tonans, the American
editor, seated upon his three-legged throne and enveloped by the majesty
and the mystery of his pretentious 'we,' is a workingman no less than the
poor reporter, who year in and year out braves the perils of the midnight
rounds through the slums of the city, yea in the more perilous temptations
of the town, yet carries with him into the darkest dens the love of work,
the hope of reward and the fear only of dishonor.
"Why, the poor officeseeker at Washington begging a bit of that pie, which,
having got his own slice, a cruel, hard-hearted President would eliminate
from the bill of fare, he likewise is a workingman, and I can tell you a
very hard-working man with a tough job of work, and were better breaking
rock upon a turnpike in Dixie or splitting rails on a quarter section out
in the wild and woolly West.
"It is true that, as stated on the program, I am a Democrat--as Artemus
Ward once said of the horses in his panorama, I can conceal it no
longer--at least I am as good a Democrat as they have nowadays. But first
of all, I am an American, and in America every man who is not a policeman
or a dude is a workingman. So, by your leave, my friends, instead of
sticking very closely to the text, and treating it from a purely party
point of view, I propose to take a ramble through the highways and byways
of life and thought in our beloved country and to cast a balance if I can
from an American point of view.
"I want to say in the beginning that no party can save any man or any set
of men from the daily toil by which all of us live and move and have our
Then I worked in my old lecture.
It went like hot cakes. When next I met William McKinley he said jocosely:
"You are a mean man, Henry Watterson!"
"How so?" I asked.
"I accepted the invitation to answer you because I wanted and needed the
money. Of course I had no time to prepare a special address. My idea was to
make my fee by ripping you up the back. But when I read the verbatim report
which had been prepared for me there was not a word with which I could take
issue, and that completely threw me out."
Then I told him how it had happened and we had a hearty laugh. He was the
most lovable of men. That such a man should have fallen a victim to the
blow of an assassin defies explanation, as did the murders of Lincoln and
Garfield, like McKinley, amiable, kindly men giving never cause of personal
The murderer is past finding out. In one way and another I fancy that I am
well acquainted with the assassins of history. Of those who slew Caesar I
learned in my schooldays, and between Ravaillac, who did the business for
Henry of Navarre, and Booth and Guiteau, my familiar knowledge seems almost
at first hand. One night at Chamberlin's, in Washington, George Corkhill,
the district attorney who was prosecuting the murderer of Garfield, said
to me: "You will never fully understand this case until you have sat by me
through one day's proceedings in court." Next day I did this.
Never have I passed five hours in a theater so filled with thrills. I
occupied a seat betwixt Corkhill and Scoville, Guiteau's brother-in-law
and voluntary attorney. I say "voluntary" because from the first Guiteau
rejected him and vilely abused him, vociferously insisting upon being his