The dieresis is transcribed by a preceding hyphen. Caps and small caps have been set as upper and lower case. Names have been corrected
Chapter VIII: "La Fayette", Indiana, kept as a contemporary variant spelling. McPherson, "clerk of the house" changed to "Clerk of the House" (of Representatives).
LoC call number: E661.C9
FIFTY YEARS OF PUBLIC SERVICE
[Frontispiece] Photo, by Prince Tota, Washington, D. C. [Facsimile signature] SMCullom
FIFTY YEARS OF PUBLIC SERVICE
PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS OF SHELBY M. CULLOM SENIOR UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM ILLINOIS
SECOND EDITION CHICAGO A. C. McCLURG & CO. 1911
Copyright A. C. McCLURG & Co. 1911
Published October, 1911 Second Edition, December, 1911
PRESS OF THE VAIL COMPANY COSHOCTON, U. S. A.
CONTENTS CHAPTER I Birth to Admission to the Bar, 1829 to 1855 II Service as City Attorney at Springfield, 1855 and 1856 III Election to the Illinois Legislature: Lincoln-Douglas Debates, 1856 to 1858 IV Other Distinguished Characters of that Day, 1858 and 1859 V Nomination of Lincoln and Douglas for the Presidency, 1859 and 1860 VI Speaker of the Illinois Legislature, and a Member of Congress, 1860 to 1865 VII Lincoln, 1860 to 1864 VIII Notables in the Thirty-ninth Congress, 1864 to 1870 IX The Impeachment of President Johnson X Speaker of the Legislature, and Governor, 1871 to 1883 XI Grant XII General John A. Logan XIII General John M. Palmer XIV Governor Richard J. Oglesby XV Senatorial Career, 1883 to 1911 XVI Cleveland's First Term, 1884 to 1887 XVII Cleveland's Defeat and Harrison's First Term, 1888 to 1891 XVIII Cleveland's Second Term, 1892 to 1896 XIX McKinley's Presidency, 1896 to 1901 XX Roosevelt's Presidency, 1901 to 1909 XXI Interstate Commerce XXII John Marshall Harlan XXIII Members of the Committee on Foreign Relations XXIV Work of the Committee on Foreign Relations XXV The Interoceanic Canal XXVI Santo Domingo's Fiscal Affairs XXVII Diplomatic Agreements by Protocol XXVIII Arbitration XXIX Titles and Decorations from Foreign Powers XXX Isle of Pines, Danish West Indies, and Algeciras XXXI Congress under the Taft Administration XXXII Lincoln Centennial: Lincoln Library XXXIII Consecutive Elections to United States Senate XXXIV Conclusion
LIST OF PORTRAITS
S. M. Cullom Shelby M. Cullom, while a Law Student Richard Yates Stephen A. Douglas Abraham Lincoln James G. Blaine Andrew Johnson Shelby M. Cullom, while Governor of Illinois Ulysses S. Grant John A. Logan John M. Palmer Richard J. Oglesby Grover Cleveland James A. Garfield William McKinley William Howard Taft Cushman K. Davis William P. Frye John C. Spooner Theodore Roosevelt Elihu Root
"Oh, that mine adversary had written a book!"
Such was the exclamation of one who, through the centuries, has been held up to the world as the symbol of patience and long suffering endurance, and who believed that he thus expressed the surest method of confounding an enemy.
I have come to that age in life where I feel somewhat indifferent as to consequences, and, yielding to the suggestions and insistence of friends, I determined that I would undertake to write some recollections, as they occurred to me, of the men and events of my time.
Naturally, to me the history of the period covered by my life since 1829 is particularly interesting. I do not think that I am prejudiced when I assert that while this period has not been great in Art and Letters, from a material, scientific, and industrial standpoint it has been the most wonderful epoch in all the world's history.
About the period of my birth General Andrew Jackson was first elected President of the United States. Jackson to me has always been an interesting character. Theodore Roosevelt has declared very little respect for him, and has written deprecatingly—I might say, even abusively—of him. But the truth is, there were never two Presidents in the White House who, in many respects, resembled each other more nearly than Jackson and Roosevelt.
Jackson was sixty-one years old when elected President—an unusually old man to be elected to that high office; and he had served his country during the War of the Revolution. When I consider this the thought occurs to me, How young as a Nation we are, after all. Why, I date almost back to the Revolution! President Taft jocularly remarked to me recently: "Here's my old friend, Uncle Shelby. He comes nearer connecting the present with the days of Washington than any one whom I know." And I suppose there are few men in public life whose careers extend farther into the past than mine.
During my early life the survivors of the Revolutionary War, to say nothing of the War of 1812, were very numerous and abundantly in evidence. Up to that time, no man who had not served his country in some capacity in the Revolutionary War had been elevated to the Presidency, and this was the case until the year 1843.
During the year 1829 the crown of Great Britain descended from King George IV to King William IV. That reign passed away, and I have lived to see the long reign of Victoria come and go, the reign of Edward VII come and go, and the accession of King George V. Charles X ruled in France, Francis I in Austria (the reign of Francis Joseph had not yet begun), Frederick William III in Prussia, Nicholas I in Russia; while Leo XII governed the Papal States, the Kingdom of Italy not yet having come into existence. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland had not yet a population of 24,000,000, all told.
From the dawn of this epoch may well date the practical beginning of a long cycle of political and intellectual upheaval, and the readjustment of relations which go to make up world-history, arriving at a culmination in our great Civil War.
In the last half-century—nay, I might say, within the last two decades—there has been a mighty impulse in the direction of scientific investigation, of mechanical invention, of preventive medicine, of economic improvement, and the like. Germany, in some respects, has led, but our own country has not been far behind. Independent research has been wonderfully productive, and rivalry has been keen. Often the mere suggestion of one scientist has been taken up and elaborated (or discredited) by other scientists; the idea of one inventor has been seized upon and bettered, or possibly proved valueless, by other inventors. The paths to the remote and inaccessible have been toiled over by rival explorers; new records have been made by rival aviators; while competitive and co-operative activities in every line have known a phenomenal growth. New names have been placed in the Pantheon of the immortals, new planets discovered in the solar system, new stars added to the clear skies of our nightly vision. Out of all the striving has come a sweeping advance in lingual requirements. In most departments of Science, Art, and Manufacture, the processes and methods of to-day are not those of yesterday, and the doers of new things have freely coined new words or given new meaning to old ones. The most complete and exhaustive encyclopaedia of yesterday is to-day found not entirely adequate to the already increased wants. Upon all these momentous factors must these "Recollections," in one way or another, touch from time to time.
Shelby M. Cullom.
Washington, D. C. July, 1911.
FIFTY YEARS OF PUBLIC SERVICE
CHAPTER I BIRTH TO ADMISSION TO THE BAR 1829 to 1855
Tides of migration set in about the close of the Revolutionary War, originating in the most populous of the late Colonies (now States), debouching from the western slopes of the mountain border-passes into the headwaters of Kentucky's rivers, and mingling at last in the fertile valley through which those rivers, in their lower reaches, find an outlet into the Ohio.
The westward flowing current brought with it two families—the Culloms of Maryland, and the Coffeys of North Carolina—who settled in a beautiful valley, not far from the banks of the Cumberland, which bore the euphonious name of Elk Spring Valley. Richard Northcraft Cullom, of the first-named family, married Elizabeth Coffey. They remained in Kentucky until seven children had been born to them, I being the seventh, the date of my birth occurring on the twenty-second day of November, 1829. We were a large family, but not extraordinarily numerous for those times, there being five brothers and seven sisters.
Kentucky was a Slave State, and my father did not believe in slavery. He was fairly well to do, and after considering the situation he determined to seek a home in a Free State and live there to the end of his days.
A treaty with the Indians in 1784, at Fort Stanwix, had secured from the Iroquois all claims to the lands which now make up the States of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. At the time of our removal the State of Illinois was only eleven years old, and but a small portion of it had any considerable settlements. These were mainly in the south half of the State. Chicago was then a small village, Fort Dearborn being at that time of more consequence than the village. Now Chicago is the second greatest city in the Union in population and business.
My father, together with Alfred Phillips and William Brown, his two brothers-in-law, entered land in the same portion of the County of Tazewell, and at once, on their arrival from Kentucky, pitched their tents and began the erection of log cabins, in preparation for winter. Phillips was a large, vigorous man, both in body and mind. He was a man of the highest integrity, and soon became one of the leading citizens of Tazewell County, continuing so until his death. William Brown was a Methodist preacher and was a worthy example of the consistent minister of the Gospel of Christ. He was called upon by the people for many miles around to perform ceremonies on wedding occasions and, in time of sorrow, to preach at the funerals of departed friends.
My father lived longer than either Phillips or Brown. They both raised large families, and to-day the youngest son of Phillips— the Hon. Isaac N. Phillips—is recognized as one of the able lawyers of the State, and is the reporter of the Supreme Court of Illinois. My father was a farmer, but he always took great interest in the affairs of the country, and especially of the State in which he lived. He was a Whig, and believed in Henry Clay. He took an active part in political campaigns, and was several times a member of the House of Representatives of the State Legislature, and once of the State Senate.
Tazewell County, in which he resided, became a very strong Whig county, the Whigs having their own way until the Free-soil party, which soon became the Republican party, took its place as against the Democratic party. When that time came, Tazewell, like Sangamon, became Democratic. Sangamon County, in which I live, and Tazewell County, in which I was raised, were both strong Whig counties while the Whig party survived; but when it died, the population being largely from Kentucky and other Southern States, naturally sympathized with the South on the question of slavery. They drifted into the Democratic party in large numbers, and gave the control to the Democracy for a time; and the two parties still struggle for control in both counties.
My father became well acquainted with Abraham Lincoln while the latter was a young man. The first time I ever heard of Lincoln, was when two men came to my father's house to consult with him on the question of employing an attorney to attend to a law case for them at the approaching term of the Circuit Court. I remember hearing my father say to them that if Judge Stephen T. Logan should be in attendance at court, they should employ him; but if he were not, a young man named Lincoln would be there, who would do just about as well. Readers will see by this that while Lincoln was yet a young man he was ranked among the foremost lawyers at the Bar. At that time Stephen A. Douglas was beginning to be heard from.
Judge Logan was one of the best lawyers of the Mississippi Valley. He was a Kentuckian by birth, and, as a lawyer, was a very great man. Douglas was a great statesman and a leader of men; a great debater, but, in my opinion, not a great lawyer. The law is a jealous mistress; there are no great lawyers who do not give undivided attention to its study, and Douglas devoted much time to public affairs.
On the arrival of my father at the grove where he had previously determined to locate his family, he pitched his tent near a little stream, then called Mud Creek, afterwards called Deer Creek, because it was a great resort for wild deer. He soon erected a log cabin and moved into it with his family. I was less than one year old when the family located in Illinois. We lived in the cabin for several years. It was not a single cabin, but there were two cabins connected together by a covered porch; which was a very pleasant arrangement in both summer and winter.
Finally, my father built a frame house. During all this time the wild deer were numerous, and often I have counted from the door from five to twenty deer feeding in a slough not a quarter of a mile away.
I never killed a deer. The beautiful animals always seemed to me so innocent that I had not the heart to shoot them.
The Winter of 1830-31 was long remembered by the early settlers of Illinois, and of all the now so-called Middle States, as the "winter of the deep snow." For months it was impossible to pass from one community to another in the country.
My education was obtained at the local schools and at the seminary at Mount Morris two hundred miles distant from my father's home.
In my boyhood years there were no common schools. There were only such schools in the country as the people by subscription saw proper to provide. The schoolhouse in the neighborhood in which I lived was built of logs, covered with thick boards, and supplied with rude benches on its puncheon floor for the scholars to sit upon. We sat bolt upright, there being nothing to lean against. There were no desks for our books; and had desks been obtainable there were but few books to use or care for. We boys whispered to the girls at our peril; but we took the risk occasionally.
It was my duty as a school-boy, after doing the chores and work inseparable from farm life, to walk every morning a long distance over rough country roads to school. After I had attained to a fair common-school education, I concluded that I could teach a country school, and was employed to teach in the neighborhood; first for three months at eighteen dollars per month, and then for a second term of three months at twenty. I think I have a right to assume that I did well as a teacher, since the patrons raised my wages for the second term two dollars per month.
My efforts in teaching school did not secure sufficient funds to enable me to remain at school away from home very long, and I determined to try another plan. My father had five yoke of oxen. I prevailed on him to lend them to me. I obtained a plough which cut a furrow eighteen to twenty inches wide, and with the oxen and plough I broke prairie for some months. I thereby secured sufficient money, with the additional sums which I made from the institution at Mount Morris at odd times, to enable me to remain at the Mount Morris Seminary for two years.
I never shall forget the journey from my home in Tazewell County to Mount Morris, when I first left home to enter the school. As it well illustrates the difficulties and hardships of travel in those early days in Illinois, I may be pardoned for giving it somewhat in detail.
It was in the Spring of the year. My father started with me on horseback from my home in Tazewell County to Peoria, a distance of fifteen miles. A sudden freeze had taken place after the frost had gone out of the ground, and this had caused an icy crust to form over the mud, but not of sufficient strength to bear the weight of a horse, whose hoofs would constantly break through. Whereupon I dismounted and told father that he had better take the horses back home, and that I would go to Peoria on foot, which I did.
The weather was cold, and I was certainly used up when I arrived in Peoria. I went to bed, departing early the following morning, by steamer, for Peru, a distance of twenty-five miles. From there I took the stage-coach to Dixon, a distance of twelve miles.
There came up another storm during the journey from Peru to Dixon, and the driver of the stage-coach lost his way and could not keep in the road. I ran along in front of the coach most of the way, in order to keep it in the road, the horses following me. From Dixon I crossed the river, proceeding to Mount Morris by private conveyance. I never had a more severe trip, and I felt its effects for very many years afterwards.
The days I spent in old Mount Morris Seminary were the pleasantest of my life. I was just at the age which might be termed the formative period of a young man's career. Had I been surrounded then by other companions, by other environment, my whole future might have been entirely different. Judged by the standard of the great Eastern institutions, Mount Morris was not even a third-class college; but it was a good school, attended by young men of an unusually high order. In those early days it was the leading institution of higher learning in Northern Illinois. I enjoyed Mount Morris, and the friendships formed there continued throughout my life.
I do not know whether I was a popular student or not, but I was president of the Amphictyon Society, and, according to the usual custom, was to deliver the address on retiring from the presidency. During the course of the address I fainted and was carried from the chapel, which was very hot and very crowded. I was rolled around in the snow a while and speedily revived. I was immediately asked to let one of the boys read the remainder of the address, but the heroic treatment to which I had been subjected stirred me to profane indifference respecting its fate. Later I was selected to deliver the valedictory. So I suppose I must have enjoyed a reasonable degree of popularity among my fellow students.
It was at Mount Morris that I first became intimate with the late Robert R. Hitt. He and his brother John, who recently died, were classmates of mine, their father being the resident Methodist preacher at Mount Morris. Robert R. Hitt remained my friend from our school days until his death. He was a candidate for the Senate against me at one time, but he was no politician, and I defeated him so easily that he could not harbor a bitter feeling against me. He was quite a character, and enjoyed a long and distinguished public career in Illinois. One of the early shorthand reporters of the State, the reporter of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, he became intimate with Lincoln, and Lincoln was very fond of him. He filled numerous important positions at home and abroad, and married a most beautiful lady, who still survives. He was later appointed Secretary of Legation at Paris.
Bob Hitt told me that he asked President Grant for the appointment, and the President at once said that he would give it to him. Washburne, who had been Secretary of State for a few days, and who was then minister at Paris, was much astonished when Hitt appeared and said that he had been appointed Secretary of Legation. Mr. Washburne denounced both President Grant and Secretary of State Fish for appointing anybody to fill such an intimate position without his consent.
Ambassadors and ministers, however, are not consulted as to who shall be appointed secretaries. These appointments are made by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate; but Mr. Washburne, as usual, though that he was a bigger man than any one else, and that an exception should have been made in his case. But, when officially informed of the appointment, he submitted gracefully, and they got along together quite amicably. Strange to say, Hitt represented Washburne's old district in Congress for a number of years—many more years than Washburne himself represented it.
It was as a member of Congress that Mr. Hitt distinguished himself. He did what every man should do who expects to make a reputation as a national legislator; and that is to specialize, to become an expert in some particular branch. He was peculiarly fitted for foreign affairs. He was a man of education and culture, a student always, had served abroad for years, had mingled in the highest society, and it is not strange than in a comparatively few years he was recognized as the leading authority on all matters coming before the House pertaining to our foreign relations.
The Foreign Affairs Committee of the House is not nearly so important a committee as the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate, and I may be pardoned for saying that I am chairman of the latter committee myself.
The reason is this: the Constitution provides that treaties shall be made only with the advice and consent of the Senate; hence it is that all such treaties, and consequently the foreign policy of the general Government, must pass the scrutiny of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate while the House and its committees have nothing whatever to do with them.
But nevertheless of all the House committees, that of Foreign Affairs is at times the foremost, and it never had an abler chairman than Robert R. Hitt. He was certainly in the most remarkable degree what might be termed a specialist in legislation. He gave but scant attention to any other branch of legislation. He had little time or liking for the tariff, finance, appropriations, or for any branch of legislation that failed to come within his own especial province. He was, in fact, so indifferent to the general business of the House that he told me one day that he did not even take the trouble to select a regular seat; that when any question came up in which he was interested he would talk from the seat of some absent colleague. Hence it was that he was seldom seen on the floor of the House except when some question was raised concerning our foreign relations; at which time he was immediately sent for. And it is only justice to him to say that he was the only man in the House in his time, and no one has since appeared there, who could so successfully defend or attack the policy of an administration concerning its foreign affairs.
The late Senator Morgan of Alabama, a most extraordinary character, of whom I shall have something to say later, and Robert R. Hitt and myself were appointed members of a commission to frame a form of government for the Territory of Hawaii, which we had just acquired. We travelled to Hawaii together. No two more delightful, entertaining, or interesting men could be found. They are both dead, and it was my sad privilege to eulogize their public achievements in the Senate.
In what I am writing from time to time, now, as the months and years go by, when I have the leisure from my public duties to devote to it, and without knowing whether what I am writing will ever be published, I do not want to eulogize any one. If what I say about men and events shall offend their friends living, I can not help it. I want only to give my own estimate of the men whom I have known. Robert R. Hitt was a good man; his honesty and uprightness were never questioned; he never did a great deal for his district but he was one of the most useful legislators in his own line— foreign affairs—whom I have ever known during my service in Congress. I think this is a fair and just estimate of him.
But to return to Mount Morris, Professor D. J. Pinckney was president of the Seminary when I was a student there. He knew my father intimately, and naturally took more than ordinary interest in me. When I became ill at school, he took me into his own home and kept me there for a month or more, treating me with the greatest kindness and consideration.
Years after I left the institution he became interested in politics, and ran as an independent for Congress against Horatio C. Burchard, Republican (who was, by the way, a very excellent man and my friend). Burchard defeated him. When the campaign was on I was invited to go to Galena and make a speech for Mr. Burchard. It never occurred to me at the time that I was going into Pinckney's district; but when I discovered the truth, I could not very well back out. I made my speech, but was careful not to say a word against Professor Pinckney, simply advocating the election of Mr. Burchard as a good Republican. Professor Pinckney, however, took great offense, and was very cold toward me from that time until his death. I felt that he had been misled, that it would all come right, and that some day I would have a plain talk with him; but he died before we ever got together. He has a son now living in Chicago, a prominent circuit judge of Cook County.
Among other classmates of mine at Mount Morris, was the late General John A. Rawlins, who became a distinguished officer and was General Grant's chief of staff. No better, no truer, man ever lived than General Rawlins. He was essentially a good man and never had a bad habit.
Rawlins was a Democrat, and a strong one, during his school days, and I believe that he remained one until the Civil War. Robert Hitt and his brother John, together with Rawlins and myself, formed a sort of four-in-hand, and we were very intimate. We would take part in the discussions in our society, and Rawlins was especially strong when a political question was raised. I have heard him, during his school days, make speeches that would have done credit to a statesman. He would have done himself and country credit in any civil office. He served as Secretary of War a few months. Like so many others who entered the war without the slightest military training, he came out of it with a brilliant record as an officer and soldier.
Judge Moses Hallett, a United States judge, retired, of Colorado, was another classmate of mine. He was an exceptionally good man, and developed into a very able lawyer and judge. He is still living, and has become quite wealthy through fortunate real-estate investments in the vicinity of Denver.
But I fear I might tire the reader by dwelling longer on my school life at Mount Morris. To look back over those happy early days is interesting to me; but it is sad to think how few, how very few, of my schoolmates, then just beginning the journey of life, with all the enthusiasm and hope of youth, are living to-day. They soon scattered, some to one vocation, some to another; some to achieve distinction and fame, some failure; but certain it is that I know of very few who are now living.
My health was impaired when I left school, and I returned home to work on the farm. Soon I became strong again, but the labor was so arduous and uncongenial that I determined upon a change: if there was any other way of making a honest living, I would try to find it.
In the meantime I had leased a farm of one hundred and sixty acres from my father. When Spring came I told him that I wanted to be released from my contract; that I had deliberately come to the conclusion that I could make my living some other way—that I intended to study law. My father did not hesitate to relieve me of my obligations, and the succeeding October, 1853, I started for Springfield to enter upon the study of law. I consulted with Abraham Lincoln, and on his advice I entered the law offices of Stuart and Edwards, both of whom were Whigs and friends of my father. They were both very good men and distinguished lawyers.
At that time Abraham Lincoln and Stephen T. Logan and Stuart and Edwards were the four ablest lawyers of the capital city. I studied two years in the offices of Stuart and Edwards, pursuing the usual life of a law student in a country law office, and was admitted to the Bar in 1855, and elected City Attorney the same year.
Meanwhile, however, I had been ill of typhoid fever for several months. During the period of my convalescence, I was advised to return to my home in the country and spend much time riding horseback. I did so, but the time seemed to drag, and finally I went to the city of Peoria to learn whether I could direct my restorative exercise to an additional profitable end. The result was that for several ensuing weeks I rode about the countryside, buying hogs for Ting & Brotherson; at the expiration of which time I had regained my health, was richer by about five hundred dollars, and was thus enabled to return at once to Springfield and take up again my interrupted studies.
Having been inducted into the office of City Attorney, I was fairly launched upon a political career, exceeding in length of unbroken service that of any other public man in the country's history. In fact I never accepted but two executive appointments: the first was an unsought appointment by Abraham Lincoln, after he had become the central figure of his time, if not of all time; and, second, an appointment from President McKinley as chairman of the Hawaiian Commission.
CHAPTER II SERVICE AS CITY ATTORNEY AT SPRINGFIELD 1855 and 1856
My election as City Attorney of Springfield signalized at once my active interest in politics at the very moment when the war cloud was beginning to take shape in the political heavens—a portentous cloud, but recognized as such at that time by comparatively few of the thinking people. It had seemed certain for years that a struggle was sure to come. Being a very young man, I suppose I did not realize the horrors of a civil war, but I watched with keen interest the signs of dissolution in political parties, and realignments in party ties.
In 1854 the country seemed on the verge of a war with Spain over Cuba which happily was averted. The Black Warrior had been seized in Havana Harbor, and the excitement throughout the country when Congress prepared to suspend the neutrality laws between the United States and Spain was intense.
It was about this time also that the famous Ostend manifesto was issued without authority from any one. The American representatives at the Courts of England, France, and Spain met at Ostend to confer on the best method of settling the difficulties concerning Cuba and obtaining possession of the island. They issued a manifesto in which they recommended that Cuba should be purchased if possible, failing which that it should be taken by force:
"If Spain, actuated by stubborn pride and a false sense of honor, should refuse to sell Cuba to the United States, then by every law, human and divine, we shall be justified in wresting it from Spain, if we possess the power."
The Ostend manifesto was repudiated; but it is certain that we would have then intervened in favor of freeing Cuba, had it not been for the dark war clouds which were so quickly gathering over our own country.
Among the other vital conditions which helped to keep the country's interest and attention divided at this critical time was the Missouri Compromise repeal, May 30, 1855. This repealing act early began to bear political fruit. Already treaties had been made with half a score of the Indian Nations in Kansas, by which the greater part of the soil for two hundred miles west was opened. Settlers, principally from Missouri, immediately began to flock in, and with the first attempt to hold an election a bloody epoch set in for that region between the pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions, fanned by attempts in Massachusetts and other Eastern States to make of Kansas a Free State.
By methods of intimidation, Whitfield, a slave-holder, was elected the first delegate to Congress. At a second election thirteen State Senators and twenty-six members of a Lower House were declared elected. For this purpose 6,320 votes were cast—more than twice the number of legal voters.
Foreign affairs other than Spain's unfriendly activities also had a share in distracting attention. The United States paid Mexico ten million dollars to be free of the Guadalupe Hidalgo obligation to defend the Mexican frontier against the Indians.
My first experience after I was elected City Attorney, was to prosecute persons charged with violating the ordinances prohibiting the sale of intoxicating liquors. One of my preceptors, the Hon. Benjamin S. Edwards, was a strong and earnest temperance man. He volunteered to assist me in the prosecution of what we called "liquor cases." The fact is that for a time he took charge of the cases, and I assisted him. Life was made a burden to violators of liquor ordinances that year in Springfield.
The following year, 1856, was a Presidential year. I was chosen as an elector on what was called the "Fillmore Ticket." I did not at that time believe very strongly in Fremont for President. During the same year, I was nominated as a candidate for the House of Representatives of the Illinois Legislature, and was supported by both the Fillmore party and the Free-soil party and thus elected.
The House of Representatives of the Legislature of 1856 was so close that if all the members who had not been elected as Democrats united, they had one majority. If any one of them went to the Democrats, the Democrats would have the control. One of the men elected on the Fillmore ticket went over, thus giving the Democracy the coveted one necessary. The Republicans, or as they were then called, Free-soilers, attempted to organize the House by recognizing the clerk of the previous House, who was a Free-soiler, it then being the custom to have the clerk call the House to order and preside until a temporary organization was perfected. The Democrats refused to recognize the clerk whom the opposition recognized. The Democrats declared by vote the election of a temporary chairman, nominated and elected a sergeant-at-arms and a deputy, and ordered the two latter officers to carry the clerk out of the hall; which was promptly done at the expense of a good suit of clothes to the clerk who departed reluctantly. This was my first experience in legislation.
A careful reading of the annals of the State of Illinois will show that this incident is by no means unique in its history.
To go back a few years, when Edward Coles, who had been private secretary to President Madison, was elected Governor, it was by a mere plurality vote over his highest competitor, and—to use the language of former Governor Ford—he was so unfortunate as to have a majority of the Legislature against him during his whole term of service. The election had taken place soon after the settlement of the Missouri question. The Illinois Senators had voted for the admission of Missouri as a Slave State, while her only Representative in the Lower House voted against it. This all helped to keep alive some questions for or against the introduction of slavery.
About this time, also, a tide of immigrants was pouring into Missouri through Illinois, from Virginia and Kentucky. In the Fall of the year, every great road was crowded with them, all bound for Missouri, with their money and long trains of teams and negroes. These were the most wealthy and best educated immigrants from the Slave States. Many people who had land and farms to sell, looked upon the good fortune of Missouri with envy; whilst the lordly immigrant, as he passed along with his money and droves of negroes, took a malicious pleasure in increasing it by pretending to regret the short-sighted policy of Illinois, which excluded him from settlement, and from purchasing and holding lands.
In this mode a desire to make Illinois a Slave State became quite prevalent. Many persons had voted for Brown or Phillips with this view, whilst the friends of a Free State had rallied almost in a body for Coles.
Notwithstanding the defeat of the Democrats at this election, they were not annihilated. They had been beaten for Governor only by a division in their own ranks, whilst they had elected a large majority of each House of the Assembly, and were determined to make a vigorous effort to carry their measure at the session of the Legislature to be held in 1822-23. Governor Coles, in his first message, recommended the emancipation of the French slaves. This served as the spark to kindle into activity all the elements in favor of slavery.
Slavery could not be introduced, nor was it believed that the French slaves could be emancipated, without an amendment to the Constitution; the Constitution could not be amended without a new convention, to obtain which two thirds of each branch of the Legislature had to concur in recommending it to the people; and the voters, at the next election, had to sanction it by a majority of all the votes given for members of the Legislature.
When the Legislature assembled, it was found that the Senate contained the requisite two-thirds majority; but in the House of Representatives, by deciding a contested election in favor of one of the candidates, the Slave party would have one more than two- thirds, while by deciding in favor of the other, they would lack one vote of having the majority. These two candidates were John Shaw and Nicholas Hanson, who claimed to represent the County of Pike, which then included all the military tract and all the country north of the Illinois River to the northern limits of the State.
The leaders of the Slave party were anxious to re-elect Jesse B. Thomas to the United States Senate. Hanson would vote for him, but Shaw would not; Shaw would vote for the convention, but Hanson would not. The party had use for both of them, and they determined to use them both, one after the other. For this purpose, they first decided in favor of Hanson, admitted him to a seat, and with his vote elected their United States Senator; and then, toward the close of the session, with mere brute force, and in the most barefaced manner, they reconsidered their former vote, turned Hanson out of his seat, and decided in favor of Shaw, and with his vote carried their resolution for a convention.
There immediately resulted a very fierce contest before the people, characterized by lavish detraction and personal abuse—one of the most bitter, prolonged, and memorable in the history of the State —and the question of making Illinois permanently a Slave State was put to rest by a majority of about two thousand votes. The census of 1850 was the first that enumerated no slaves in our State.
In this connection I cannot avoid giving a little account of Frederick Adolphus Hubbard, who was Lieutenant-Governor when Coles was Governor. Hubbard seemed to be a very ignorant man, but ambitious to become Governor of the State, or to attain some other position that would give him reputation.
"It is related of him that while engaged in the trial of a lawsuit, involving the title to a certain mill owned by Joseph Duncan [who afterwards became Governor], the opposing counsel, David J. Baker, then recently from New England, had quoted from Johnson's New York reports a case strongly against Hubbard's side. Reading reports of the decisions of courts before juries was a new thing in those days; and Hubbard, to evade the force of the authority as a precedent, coolly informed the jury that Johnson was a Yankee clock-peddler, who had been perambulating up and down the country gathering up rumors and floating stories against the people of the West, and had them published in a book under the name of 'Johnson's Reports.' He indignantly repudiated the book as authority in Illinois, and clinched the argument by adding: 'Gentlemen of the jury, I am sure you will not believe anything that comes from that source; and besides that, what did Johnson know about Duncan's mill anyhow?'"( 1)
Hubbard, in 1826, became a candidate for Governor of Illinois. He canvassed the State, and the following is a sample of his speeches, recorded by Ford:
"Fellow-citizens, I offer myself as a candidate before you for the office of Governor. I do not pretend to be a man of extraordinary talents, nor do I claim to be equal to Julius Caesar or Napoleon Bonaparte, nor yet to be as great a man as my opponent, Governor Edwards. Nevertheless I think I can govern you pretty well. I do not think it will require a very extraordinary smart man to govern you; for to tell you the truth, fellow-citizens, I do not believe you will be very hard to govern, nohow."( 2)
In 1825, Governor Coles notified Lieutenant-Governor Hubbard that he had occasion to leave the State for a time and required the latter to take charge of affairs. Hubbard did so, and when Governor Coles returned Hubbard declined to give up the office, asserting that the Governor had vacated it. He based his contention upon that clause of the Constitution that provided that the Lieutenant- Governor should exercise all the power and authority appertaining to the office of Governor, in case of the latter's absence from the State, until the time provided by the Constitution for the election of Governor should arrive. He claimed that the Governor had vacated the office until the time of the election of a new Governor, and declined to surrender. The result was, the Governor had to get a decision of the Supreme Court, which was to the effect that there was no ground on which to award the writ. Coles was obliged to submit, but not until he had appealed to the Legislature, where his contention was equally unsuccessful.
At one time, after repeated and annoying application, Hubbard obtained from Governor Edwards what he had reason to believe was a recommendation for a certain office. He became a little suspicious that the letter was not very strong in his behalf, and in speaking of it afterwards, in his lisping manner, said: "Contrary to the uthage amongst gentlemen, he thealed it up; and contrary to the uthage amongst gentlemen, I broke it open; and what do you think I found? Instead of recommending me, the old rathcal abuthed me like a pickpocket."
( 1) Moses, page 334.
( 2) Ford, page 61.
CHAPTER III ELECTION TO THE ILLINOIS LEGISLATURE: LINCOLN-DOUGLAS DEBATES 1856 to 1858
In the year 1856 I had rather unusual experiences of both victory and defeat in one and the same political campaign. As candidate for the Legislature I won out, being elected; as the chosen elector on the Fillmore ticket, I went down in the party's defeat. The Whig party was in its expiring days, and what was called the "Know- Nothing" party was apparently a temporary substitute for it. Fillmore carried one solitary state—Maryland. Buchanan was elected by quite a large majority over both Fremont and Fillmore combined.
The administration of President Buchanan has been so frequently and fully described that there is little, if anything, new to say about it; but such were the fearful responsibilities incurred by it for the subsequent bloodshed, that its shortcomings cannot be entirely ignored in the intelligible presentation of the course of events which gave direction to my observations and activities.
The campaign of 1856 had been one of the most exiting and hotly contested ever fought in the State. The only hope the Democrats had of success was in the division of their opponents and in preventing their fusion. Their denunciations of abolitionists and "Black Republicans," as they termed their antagonists, were without bounds. But here and there some one would be called to account, as in the case of the late John M. Palmer, since distinguished in war and peace, and some years ago candidate of the Gold Democrats for the Presidency.
Between him and Major Harris, then running for Congress in his district, there had been considerable ill-feeling. The major had written a letter to be read at a Democratic meeting at which Palmer was present. It was very abusive of the Republicans, and Palmer rising, remarked the fact that the author would not dare make such charges to the face of any honest man. Harris, as related by the historian Moses, hearing of this, announced that he would resent it at the first opportunity. This Palmer soon gave him by attending one of his meetings. The major in the course of his remarks indulged in the most vituperative language against abolitionists, calling them disturbers of the peace, incendiaries, and falsifiers; and at length, turning to Palmer and pointing his finger at him, said, "I mean you, sir!" Palmer rising to his feet, instantly replied, "Well, sir, if you apply that language to me you are a dastardly liar!" And drawing a pistol, he started toward the speaker's stand. "Now, sir," he continued, "when you get through, I propose to reply to you." The major had not anticipated this turn of affairs, but prudently kept his temper and finished his speech. Then Palmer arose and, laying his weapon before him, cocked, proceeded to give the Democratic party such a castigation as none of those present had ever heard before.
It was in the campaign of 1856 that I first began to make political speeches. James H. Matheny, who was then our circuit clerk, accompanied me to several meetings where we both delivered addresses. He was an old Whig inclined toward Democracy, and I was a Whig inclined toward Republicanism. The result was I made Republican speeches, while Judge Matheny made Democratic speeches.
Our first meeting away from home was at Petersburg, Menard County. Being a candidate for elector on the Fillmore ticket, I made my first away-from-home speech, which I thought was a pretty good Republican speech. Matheny followed me with a hot Democratic speech, attacking especially Judge Trumbull, then our United States Senator. I remained pretty steadily in the campaign of that year, making about the same character of speech wherever I went.
Fillmore was very popular in Central Illinois, where the Whig party also had quite a large following during its palmy days, but he did not receive votes enough to come anywhere near carrying the State. Sangamon, my home county, and Tazewell County, where I was brought up, both gave their majority votes for Fillmore.
The Hon. John T. Stuart and his partner, the Hon. B. S. Edwards, with whom I studied law, besides being able lawyers and first-class men, were both Whigs; Mr. Stuart especially took an active part in the campaign. The latter was invited to attend what was called a Fillmore meeting at Shelbyville, several counties away from Sangamon. It so happened that he could not go, and the people of Shelbyville telegraphed for me. I went, and it turned out to be a combined Fremont, Buchanan, and Fillmore meeting—at least the three meetings there were held all on the same day.
The Fillmore camp gathered its forces out in the woods until about two o'clock in the afternoon. The Buchanan and Fremont crowds then marched in, informing the first-comers that they regarded their right to have the first meeting pre-eminent. An agreement was arrived at after some little wrangling, and old General Thornton was chosen to preside. He determined that, as I was not only a young man but the farthest from home, I should make the first speech —an arrangement that suited me very well.
I made my speech, as good a one as I could, and in closing, somewhat hurriedly announced that I was obliged to leave for home, much as I might wish to remain with them to the close of the meeting. The result was that most of the Fillmore people followed me away and came nearly breaking up the whole performance. I urged them to go back and listen to the other speakers; but they declined to do so until I had gotten off for home. It was my first venture at speech- making away from home on national issues.
I worked and voted for Fillmore because I had a very high opinion of him as a good man, and did not then think very much of Fremont as a proper candidate for the Presidency. Subsequently Fremont became better known, and occupied a high place in the estimation of the people of the United States, as a gallant soldier and a statesman, enjoying the unique honor of having been the first candidate of the Republican party for President.
I have taken an active part in every campaign since 1856, excepting when poor health prevented a regular speaking campaign.
The animosities of the campaign of 1856 were carried into the Legislature and kept alive in the House during the entire session. Governor Bissell's inaugural address was a dignified State paper in which he referred to the administration of his predecessor in highly complimentary terms. He concurred in all his recommendations, but suggested no measures of his own. Although he had commented briefly upon the Kansas-Nebraska controversy, and in mild terms, his remarks stirred the ire of the Democrats. Upon the motion to print the address, a virulent attack was made upon him, led, strange to say, by John A. Logan, afterwards the foremost volunteer general of the Union, and a Republican of Republicans. The rancor of the Democrats against Governor Bissell, who at that time was a physical wreck from a stroke of paralysis, though mentally sound, was largely due to their recollection of the fearless manner in which he had responded, some years before, to a challenge given him by Jefferson Davis to a duel. That episode has long since become historic, and I need not enlarge upon it here.
As was the political temper in the State of Illinois, so was it, to a greater or less degree, throughout the entire Nation.
Buchanan's first message repeated the assurance that the discussion of slavery had come to an end. The clergy were criticised for fomenting prevalent disturbances. The President declared in favor of the admission of Kansas, with a Constitution agreeable to a majority of the settlers. He also referred to an impending decision of the Supreme Court, with which he had been made acquainted, and asked acquiescence in it. This was Judge Taney's decision in the Dred Scott case, rendered two days after Buchanan's inauguration.
An action had been begun in the Circuit Court in Missouri by Scott, a negro, for the freedom of himself and children. He claimed that he had been removed by his master in 1834 to Illinois, a Free State, and afterwards taken into territory north of the compromise line. Sanford, his master, replied that Scott was not a citizen of Missouri, and could not bring an action, and that he and his children were Sanford's slaves. The lower courts differed, and the case was twice argued. The decision nullified the Missouri restriction, or, indeed, any restriction by Congress on slavery in the Territories. Chief-Justice Taney said:
"The question is whether the class of persons (negroes) compose a portion of the people, and are constituent members of this sovereignty. We think they are not included under the word 'citizen' in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges of that instrument."
Negroes, as a race, were at that time considered as a subordinate and inferior class who had been subjugated by the dominant whites, and had no rights or privileges except such as those who held the power and the government might choose to grant them. They had for more than a century been regarded as beings of an inferior grade— so far inferior that they possessed no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his (the white man's) benefit. The negro race by common consent had been excluded from civilized governments and the family of nations, and doomed to slavery. The unhappy black race was separated from the whites by indelible marks long before established, and was never thought of or spoken of except as property.
The Chief-Justice further annulled the Missouri restriction, by asserting that "the act of Congress which prohibited a citizen from holding property of this kind north of the line therein mentioned is not warranted by the Constitution, and is therefore void." Benton said that it was "no longer the exception, with freedom the rule; but slavery was the rule, with freedom the exception."
It was a year of financial distress in America, which recalled the hard times of twenty years before. The United States treasury was empty.
Early in this year (1856) a Legislature had met at Topeka, Kansas, and was immediately dissolved by the United States marshals. A Territorial Legislature also met at Lecompton and provided for a State Constitution. The people of Kansas utterly refused to recognize the latter body which had been chosen by the Missouri invaders, and both parties continued to hold their elections.
Thus it may be seen that these episodes were the culmination of a long series of events leading to a new alignment of the country's political forces. The Republican party was the child of this ferment of unrest. The formation of a new political party, or the regeneration of an old one, is always due to events, and not to the schemes and purposes of men except as events sometimes originate in such purposes and schemes. In this case the steps in the course of events which had rendered the formation of an anti-slavery party inevitable were: The pro-slavery provisions of the Constitution, the foreign slave trade, the acquisition of the Territory of Louisiana, the invention of the cotton-gin and its effects, the Missouri Compromise, the nullification schemes of South Carolina, the colonization and annexation of Texas, the Mexican War, the contest over the admission of California, the Compromise Measure of 1850, and finally the repeal of the Missouri Compromise in 1854.
The name of the party was an incident only, and not an essential or very important incident; its principles and purposes were the vital facts. When events demand a new party, or the reorganization of an old one, all resistance is usually borne down speedily. On the other hand, it is a wasteful exhibition of human power to attempt the creation of a new party by the force of combined will and resolutions formulated in public meetings. Abraham Lincoln's great experience or keener penetration, or both, guided him at the outset of the realignments on political issues, and at the opening of the Congressional campaign of 1858, I followed him firmly and without mental reservation into the ranks of the Republican party.
Hence it was that I was present on that historic occasion when the Republican party of the State of Illinois held a convention at Springfield, June 17 of the year named, and nominated Lincoln for the seat in the United States Senate, then held by Stephen A. Douglas, who at that time was usually affectionately referred to by his partisan followers as "The Little Giant." This nomination was anticipated, and Mr. Lincoln had prepared a speech, which he then delivered, in which he set forth, in a manner now universally recognized as masterly, the doctrines of the Republican party. He arraigned the administration of Mr. Buchanan and denounced the repeal of the Missouri Compromise under the lead of Senator Douglas. In that speech he made the declaration, which I remember as clearly as though an event of yesterday, then characterized as extravagant but long since accepted as prophetic: "I believe this Government cannot endure permanently, half slave and half free."
That address inaugurated a discussion which has no exact parallel in history—certainly no equal in American political history. It introduced Mr. Lincoln to the country at large, and prepared the way for his nomination to the Presidency two years later. On the declaration above quoted Mr. Douglas based many arguments, in vain attempts to prove that Mr. Lincoln was a disunionist.
During this period Douglas addressed an enthusiastic assemblage at Chicago, and in the course of his speech adverted to the arraignment of himself by Mr. Lincoln. He took direct issue with that gentleman on his proposition that, as to Freedom and Slavery, "the Union will become all one thing or all the other," and maintained strenuously that "it is neither desirable nor possible that there should be uniformity in the local institutions and domestic regulations of the different States of this Union."
An announcement that Mr. Lincoln would reply to Mr. Douglas on the following evening brought out another assemblage, July 10, which was awakened, before the speaker had concluded, to an enthusiasm at least equal to that which the eloquence of Douglas had aroused.
The issues involved in this famous series of debates are too familiar to all students of our Nation's political history to be considered at length in these pages. Mr. Lincoln analyzed and answered the various arguments advanced by Mr. Douglas the evening before; and the closing paragraphs of his reply to the insistent reminders "that this Government was made for white men," were memorable:
"Those arguments that are made, that the inferior race are to be treated with as much allowance as they are capable of enjoying; that as much is to be done for them as their conditions will allow. What are these arguments? They are the arguments that kings have made for enslaving the people in all ages of the world. You will find that all the arguments in favor of kingcraft were of this class; they always bestrode the necks of the people, not that they wanted to do it, but because the people were better off for being ridden. That is their argument, and this argument of the Judge is the same old serpent that says: 'You work, and I eat; you toil, and I will enjoy the fruits of it.'"
Six days thereafter, July 16, Senator Douglas in a great speech again tried to break the force of his opponent's facts and logic. This was at Bloomington, and Mr. Lincoln was again a careful listener. On the evening following, July 17, at Springfield, before an enthusiastic audience, he proceeded to dissect the matters so plausibly presented.
At the same hour Douglas was addressing a Springfield audience of his own, ridiculing especially Mr. Lincoln's alleged attitude toward the Supreme Court.
Contrasting the disadvantages under which, by reason of an unfair apportionment of State Legislature representation and otherwise, the Republicans labored in that campaign, Mr. Lincoln on that occasion said in the course of his talk:
"Senator Douglas is of world-wide renown. All the anxious politicians of his party, or who have been of his party for years past, have been looking upon him as certainly, at no distant day, to be the President of the United States. They have seen in his round, jolly, fruitful face, post-offices, land-offices, marshalships, and cabinet appointments, charge-ships and foreign missions, bursting and sprouting out in wonderful exuberance, ready to be laid hold of by their greedy hands. And as they have been gazing upon this attractive picture so long, they cannot, in the little distraction that has taken place in the party, bring themselves to give up the charming hope; but with greedier anxiety they rush about him, sustain him, and give him marches, triumphal entries, and receptions, beyond what even in the days of his highest prosperity they could have brought about in his favor. On the contrary, nobody has ever expected me to be President. In my poor, lean, lank face, nobody has ever seen that any cabbages were sprouting out."
He affirmed that Popular Sovereignty, "the great staple" of the Douglas campaign, was "the most arrant Quixotism that was ever enacted before a community."
As a result of these preliminary speeches of the Congressional campaign it was generally conceded that, at last, the "Little Giant" had met his match, and the intellectual and political appetites of the public called for more. In recognition of this demand, Mr. Lincoln opened a correspondence which led to an agreement with Mr. Douglas for a series of joint discussions, seven in number, on fixed dates in August, September, and October. Alternately they were, in succession, to open the discussion and speak for an hour, with another half-hour at the close after the other had spoken for an hour and a half continuously. My friend and schoolmate, the late Mr. R. R. Hitt, an efficient stenographer, was employed to report the whole series, and thus we have a full record of the most remarkable debate, viewed from all points, that has ever occurred in American history—possibly without a parallel in the world's history. Vast assemblages gathered from far and near and listened with breathless attention to these absorbingly interesting discussions.
Notwithstanding the intense partisan feeling that was evoked, the discussion proceeded amidst surroundings characterized by the utmost decorum. The people evidently felt that the greatest of all political principles, that of human liberty itself, was hanging on the issue of this great political contest between intellectual giants, thus openly waged before the world. They accordingly rose to the dignity and solemnity of the occasion, as has been well said by one who was then a zealous follower of Douglas, vindicating by their very example the sacredness with which the right of free speech should be regarded at all times and everywhere.
I have elsewhere described the disappointment I personally felt at the result, when the election returns came in. Although the popular vote stood 125,698 for Lincoln to 121,130 for Douglas—showing a victory for Lincoln among the people—yet enough Douglas Democrats were elected to the Legislature, when added to those of his friends in the Illinois Senate elected two years before and held over, to give him fifty-four members of both branches of the Legislature on joint ballot, against forty-six for Mr. Lincoln.
CHAPTER IV OTHER DISTINGUISHED CHARACTERS OF THAT DAY 1858 and 1859
More than four months had elapsed since Lincoln's epoch-marking speech at Springfield had brought on his great discussion with Douglas, when on October 20, 1858, Governor Seward at Rochester, New York, intensified the political inflammation of the times by saying in a notable speech:
"These antagonistic systems (free labor and slave labor) are continually coming close in contact. It is an irrepressible conflict between opposing and enduring forces; and it means that the United States must and will, sooner or later, become either an entirely slave-holding or entirely a free-labor nation."
A book written by a young Southerner, "The Impending Crisis in the South—How to Meet It," was recommended in a circular signed by a large number of the Republican Congressmen, and thus given a vogue and weight out of all proportion to the standing of the author, whose recent death under tragic circumstances at an advanced age has drawn the name of Hinton Rowan Helper for a brief hour from its long obscurity.
"Dred, a Tale of the Dismal Swamp," by the author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," served, if such service were at all needed, to keep fresh in all civilized lands the name of Harriet Elizabeth Beecher Stowe. The British Museum has a long shelf filled with different translations, editions, and versions of her greatest literary work.
In the month of September Mr. Lincoln delivered a speech at Cincinnati, in reply to Mr. Douglas. In that speech he addressed himself to the citizens of Kentucky, and advocated the nomination of Mr. Douglas to the Presidency, upon the ground that he was more devoted to the South than were the Southern leaders themselves, and that he was wiser in methods for defending their rights.
This was a form of attack which Douglas had not anticipated, and which he could neither resent nor answer. As the event proved, the seed thus sown was to bear fruit abundantly in results at the ensuing National Democratic conventions, and at the Presidential election two years later. Until June, Mr. Lincoln was unknown outside of Illinois and Indiana. Judge Douglas had already taken a high place among the able men of his time of national and international reputation. In September, Lincoln's character was understood and his ability was recognized in all the non-slaveholding States of the Union. His mastery over Douglas had been complete. His logic was unanswerable, his ridicule fatal; every position taken by him was defended successfully. At the end Douglas had but one recourse. He misstated Lincoln's positions, and then assailed them.
But Lincoln was ever on the alert to expose his opponent's fallacies, and to hold up the author to the derision or condemnation of his hearers.
Mr. Lincoln's first fame rests, therefore, on that great debate. Judge Douglas had long been famous as an experienced politician and an exceptionally skilful debater. As lawyers both ranked high in their State at a time when the bar of Illinois could boast of exceptionally brilliant and able forensic talent.
As it is my purpose to treat of both these great men in some detail in subsequent pages of this work, devoting at least a full chapter to Mr. Lincoln, so long my admired and never failing friend, I shall now proceed to give some personal recollections concerning certain other of the distinguished characters of that day, chiefly those connected with the bar.
I knew Judge David Davis very well. He was Circuit Judge on our State circuit for a number of years, and until Mr. Lincoln became President, when he was made Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. When a young lawyer Davis was a Whig; and my father, being also a Whig, took a great interest in him, as he did in every young lawyer he knew who became affiliated with that party. My father thought himself justified in believing that Davis would become a power in the land. Hence he took up the young man soon after he had settled in the practice of the law at Bloomington; and I have heard him state that he gave Davis the first case he ever had in Tazewell County, by advising another to employ him. But he re-enacted, on the less conspicuous forum, the distressing experience of failure of Disraeli in his first attempt to address the English House of Commons. Davis broke down in the speech he had prepared to make, to the great mortification of my father, who had exhibited such unusual pride and confidence as to counsel his employment in the case. Subsequently Davis redeemed himself, as did Disraeli, and became a most prominent and successful lawyer.
Among other interesting circumstances of his career was that of a little claim he had for a client in Boston against a merchant in Chicago. He could not collect the debt, except by levying on a tract of land in Chicago—eighty acres, I think. Davis reported what he had done, and his client manifested dissatisfaction with the result. He so vigorously stated his disappointment to Davis, that the latter immediately redeemed the land by taking it himself and paying the amount of money due the client. This tract grew in value with the growth of Chicago until it became worth a million dollars or more.
Judge Davis was a remarkably popular man on his circuit. He was thoroughly honest, and could not endure a dishonest man on the witness-stand or anywhere else. I remember a man in Chicago who on one occasion filed a bill of discovery for the purpose of finding real estate that he seemed once to have had an interest in, and which also involved the insertion of Judge Davis's own name, since he had himself at one time owned the tract of land involved. The man had lost his voice to a considerable extent, so that he had come to be called "Whispering Smith." He became notorious as a successful collector of debts, where persons had failed and were unable to pay their debts. He had filed in this case a bill of discovery consisting of thirty or forty printed pages which included the names of many persons who had been found to have owned the real estate at one time or another, among them being Judge Davis. Discovering this, and being entirely innocent of any complicity with the party who had failed, the Judge denounced Smith in open court for the outrage of swearing to something he did not know anything about, and practically threw him out of court.
There was an incident characteristic of his fidelity to friendships which I think well worth relating. It occurred when I was Governor of Illinois. I was invited by the Agricultural Society of McLean County to deliver an address, and went to Bloomington on the day designated. I was called upon by Judge Davis, who resided there. He was a very polite man, and asked me if he could not take me out to the fair-ground. I told him I would be delighted if he would do so. He came for me with his carriage, and on our arrival at the grounds took me to the stand, disregarding the prearrangements of the officials of the fair, and introduced me to the audience. In doing so he made a speech, very complimentary to my father, but scarcely mentioning me at all—not more than to introduce me at the end of his eulogistic remarks. Many of the lawyers of the town were present. I knew them all, and they were much amused at this unusual style of introduction. And so was I. I knew, of course, that he was a great friend of my father, and a great friend of mine as well.
Judge Davis was elected to the Senate in 1877 to succeed General Logan, and resigned his seat on the bench to accept the position. He became quite fond of the Senate, and during his one term there he was elected president pro tempore of the body under somewhat unusual conditions. The Senate at that time was almost evenly divided between the two parties. The two senators from New York, however (both Republicans), and Mr. Aldrich, of Rhode Island, had been elected by their respective Legislatures, but had not taken their seats. This gave the Democrats a temporary majority, and the Senate proceeded to elect Senator Bayard, of Delaware, as its president pro tempore. Within the next day or two, however, the two New York senators and Senator Aldrich were admitted to their seats; this left a majority of two for the Republicans if Davis acted with them, and the two parties tied if Davis acted with the Democrats. Under these circumstances, General Logan, who after being out for two years had been re-elected to the Senate, moved in the caucus that David Davis be the Republican candidate for president pro tempore. Later he made the nomination in the Senate itself, and Senator Davis was elected, Senator Bayard descending, amid general laughter, from the chair which he had occupied for but a short time.
Senator Davis was very proud of the position of president pro tempore, which he retained to the end of his Senate term. He had been acting quite independently, but seemed to incline a little toward the Democrats. After he became president pro tempore, while he never announced himself a Republican, he generally acted with the Republicans.
I was in the Senate the day before Senator Davis's term expired. He was soliloquizing to himself in the intervals of putting motions and attending to the routine of his office. He was very fond of Senator Isham G. Harris of Tennessee, and when he had occasion to call a senator to the chair, generally it would be Harris. He called Harris to him while I was there, and I heard him say as his friend came up: "Harris, Harris! When I get out of here I won't have to listen to old Bayard any more!"
He was a very remarkable man and a friend of Lincoln, and Lincoln was a friend of his. I suppose that Davis did as much to secure Lincoln's nomination over Seward as any one man, although Judge Logan worked with equal zeal. But Davis knew more people than did Judge Logan, although the latter was, in my opinion, the better lawyer.
In the days of Davis's judicial life on the State bench, the judge and the lawyer had a pretty large circuit. Davis's circuit was composed of several large counties. It was the custom to travel the circuit, judge, lawyers, and all, together. At that period there were no railway facilities worth mentioning, and they had to go by private conveyance—wagon or carriage or on horseback as the case might be. Probably a dozen lawyers might go together, all putting up at the same hotel, and generally having a good time at night, spinning yarns. Lincoln was a good story-teller, and so was Davis; and the evenings were made exceedingly agreeable to all concerned.
In no small measure as a result of the influences thus put into operation, the lawyers of the period were better qualified to get along in life than those of later days; that is to say, for the rough-and-tumble life they were better able to take care of themselves than the lawyers of a more recent date have been, as a general rule.
Judge Stephen T. Logan was, I think, the best lawyer that I have ever known in Illinois. He went to Illinois at an early age and lived there until his death; he had attained the age of a little more than eighty years before he died. He was purely a lawyer. I think I never knew another lawyer who could so everlastingly ruin a man who undertook to misrepresent the truth. He seemed to understand intuitively whether a man was trying to tell the truth or was lying; if the latter, his words would so effectually be torn to pieces that they could be of no earthly value. But he was not an adept as a politician. He ran for Congress at one time against a man named Thomas L. Harris, and was beaten. He also ran later for Judge of the Supreme Court, and was beaten. This defeat was not his fault, however, as the community was a strongly Democratic one. I recall a story current in those days, to the effect that some man who had recently come from the east inquired, while talking with him, "By the way, Judge, didn't you run for the Supreme Court last year?" In his squeaky voice, the judge replied, "No; I hardly walked."
But the judge was a true man in every respect,—honest, faithful to his friends, and fearless in doing whatever he believed to be right. He felt, I think, a little bit disappointed that President Lincoln did not appoint him instead of Davis a Judge of the Supreme Court.
I came to Washington and saw Mr. Lincoln in Judge Logan's behalf without any suggestion that I do so from Logan or any one else, but simply because I believed that the President ought to appoint him on the Supreme Bench in preference to any other man in the State.
Logan was a better lawyer than Davis; but Davis was an abler politician than Logan. I have always felt that in view of the fact that Lincoln and Logan had been partners earlier, and also neighbors and close friends, he ought to have nominated Logan instead of Davis. Davis, Logan, and Browning were all well qualified for the Supreme Court, all of them friends of Lincoln, and all Whigs. Lincoln had to make the choice, and I think the selection was influenced by Davis's great assistance in securing his nomination.
Judge Logan was also a close Whig friend of my father, and earnest in his friendship for me on that account. When I was a candidate for the nomination for Governor I had a pretty stiff fight for the first term. There were rumors that men were going to attack my personal character. I did not know about the judge's action in the premises, but when the convention met, Judge Logan went to it as a private citizen and crowded himself into the hall, remaining here until I was nominated. Then he went home. I was told afterwards that he had gone there for the purpose of defending me in case of an attack against my personal character.
Of course, I could not but greatly appreciate a friendship so manifest.
He had a son, David Logan, who went to Oregon as a young lawyer, and became very eminent there. In later years the judge wrote to him, proposing that if he would come back home he would take him into partnership. To this the father received a reply from David, proposing that if he would come out there a partnership with the son was subject to his acceptance or refusal. The judge died after attaining full four-score years, and the son at an age less advanced.
I think Judge Logan also felt a bit sour toward Mr. Lincoln because the latter, he thought, ought to have been more helpful than he was to his son in his effort to be elected to the United States Senate from Oregon, at the time Baker was elected.
Speaking of Judges Logan and Davis, I am reminded of the exceptionally high character of the lawyers of Illinois of that day, and more especially of Springfield. I think there has never been a time when it had another such splendid bar. It must be that high personal character in leaders has a direct and marked influence in elevating the general characters of the followers. The young lawyers, especially, are impelled by a force implanted by nature to admire and to strive to imitate or attain to the great qualities manifested in life of those to whom leadership is conceded by common consent.
Colonel E. D. Baker was a very good lawyer. Also Orville H. Browning, of Quincy, who was in Springfield attending the various courts whose sittings were at the State capital much of the time. Then there was Archibald Williams; and Stephen A. Douglas, a great man in every way, was on the bench a part of the time. Abraham Lincoln was, of course, the equal of any man, on the bench or off of it. Such men prominently in the lead as lawyers, and as men among men, could not but stimulate the ambitions and loftier aspirations of other lawyers, especially the younger ones. In striving to pay the tributes—imitation, etc.,—that can be accorded to greatness, they become great themselves; and perhaps here may be found the real or chief cause of the very large numbers of conspicuously eminent men congregated at the capital of Illinois in those days.
Judge Lyman Trumbull I always regarded as one of the exceptional lawyers of the country. I came to know him well while I was a member of the House and he a United States Senator. During those days I saw very much of him. When Trumbull came to the Senate there was some prejudice against him, growing out of circumstances (related elsewhere in these pages) which prevented the election of Mr. Lincoln, and which seemed to be plainly within Mr. Trumbull's control. But the feeling soon vanished, and Trumbull's course in the Senate was so true to the principles of the party which Mr. Lincoln had championed, that the manner in which he had secured the election was soon forgotten, or at least condoned, and the judge remained there for a long period of service—three terms.
While he was there I came to the House of Representatives, and came to be, as our association grew more and more intimate, very fond of Senator Trumbull. I also admired his ability. He was one of the few in that body who could hold his own with Judge Douglas in debate, and when he came into the Senate he at once took issue with Douglas, they being in controversy with each other very frequently on slavery and other political questions, until Douglas's career ended, about the beginning of the Civil War.
I was, perhaps, as intimate personally with Judge Trumbull during my stay in the House as any other member. Barton C. Cook and Norman B. Judd also were as intimate with the judge, as any other members of the Illinois delegation. Nothing ever happened to change these conditions, until the vote which Trumbull cast against the impeachment of Andrew Johnson. Mr. Cook and Mr. Judd, especially the latter, seemed to be almost bitterly angry against Judge Trumbull.
As a result of that vote opposition to him began to grow in the party. However, almost immediately after the impeachment he was re-elected, although at the time not a candidate. He was subsequently nominated by the Democratic party for Governor of Illinois. I ran against him as the candidate of the Republican party, and was elected over him by a majority of about thirty-eight thousand. He imagined, so I have heard, that he was going to beat me, and was considerably surprised at his failure to do so.
He died only a few years ago, at an advanced age. His first wife was a sister of Dr. Jayne, an excellent man, and, I am glad to add, he and I are warm personal friends. I am very sorry to say, though, that his children, I believe, are all gone, as are mine.
There were other men who had risen to prominence in Illinois, of whom I wish to write, and some who were then new upon the stage of public life, whom I knew and who subsequently achieved distinction. I have already postponed my reminiscences of Mr. Lincoln to a later chapter than I could wish, but in point of time we have now come to the year of his nomination and election to the Presidency of the United States, and the beginning of a career which was to be finished in the course of only a little over four years.
The reference to my old friend Doctor William Jayne reminds me that I should say something of my Springfield friends,—some living, but many dead. It is to these friends that I am indebted for my success in public life, and they have generally loyally supported me, although friends in other parts of the State have been quite as loyal and devoted to my interests when I have been a candidate for high public office.
In the days of Lincoln, I do not believe that there ever was a community that contained so many really splendid men, men who were so well fitted to fill any place in the State or Nation, as did Springfield. I can refer to only a few of those of State and National renown. If I have overlooked some whom I should have mentioned, I hope I shall be pardoned.
First of all comes Lincoln. From time to time, as I have written these recollections, I have spoken of him. I will later give my estimate of Douglas, who, while not a citizen of Springfield, spent a great deal of time there as a member of the Supreme Court, as a member of the Legislature, and on legal, political, and social affairs. In the last-mentioned connection he at one time was a rival for the hand of Mary Todd, afterwards Mrs. Abraham Lincoln. I have thought and written something of Stephen T. Logan, and to my own old law partner, Milton Hay, I refer in other parts of these recollections. There were no better lawyers in their day.
William H. Herndon, Lincoln's law partner, was a capable lawyer also. He wrote an excellent life of his distinguished partner. Herndon was one of the earliest Republicans of his State. While Lincoln believed in the principles of the party from the very beginning, the truth is, he was a little slow in becoming a member of it; and Herndon always claimed that he had much to do with making Abraham Lincoln an active member of the Republican party. Herndon believed that he was qualified to fill almost any office, and I think he was a little dissatisfied that Lincoln did not give him some high position.
William Butler, belonging to this same period, was one of the leading citizens and a devoted friend of Lincoln and an excellent man. Nor can I forget Antram Campbell, one of my first law partners. We were always warm friends. I saw him on his death-bed when I returned home from Washington, where I was serving as a Member of Congress. He recognized me, but could not speak, and I can see now the tears falling from his eyes.
Of the State officers of that day, Richard Yates was Governor. The State, under the lead of its War Governor, did not waste time or spare money in putting the troops in readiness for the field, and perhaps there was no governor of any State more watchful of the State's interests, or more devoted to the interests of the Union, or more loved by the people of his own State, including the troops in the field, than was Governor Yates. He was loyalty itself, and for many years was an apostle of liberty. He retired from the office of governor, to take his place as a senator from Illinois in the United States Senate. His fame, however, rests on being the great War Governor of the State of Illinois, the compeer of Morton, Andrews, and Curtin.
His son, Richard Yates, many years later succeeded to the office of governor, and is one of the prominent men of Springfield to-day.
O. M. Hatch was Secretary of State. He was among my early influential friends in Springfield. Uncle Jesse K. Dubois, for whom I had high regard, and who was quite well known in and out of Illinois, was one of the State officers. O. H. Miner was Auditor of the State at one time. He was a very good man. His son, Louis Miner, and Harry Dorwin, a nephew of my deceased wife, are joint owners of the Springfield Journal, one of the oldest Republican organs of the State.
Colonel John Williams could not be said to be a National or State character, but he was a good business man, and one of the best friends I ever had, so I cannot refrain from a passing tribute to his memory.
When I was elected to Congress the first time, in 1864, my friends knew that I had spent a considerable sum of money for election expenses. It being Lincoln's district, and Lincoln being a candidate for re-election as President, the National Committee helped some; but I was naturally compelled to spend a great deal myself. I considered to whom I should apply for assistance, and thought of Colonel Williams. I went to him, candidly explaining that I should be unable to make the race without financial assistance; he told me to draw on him for whatever funds I might want, and at the end to let him know the total amount, and that he would take care of it. I did so. He gave me what I asked for, and I gave him my note, which I paid as soon as I could; but he never bothered me about it. I always had a warm spot for him in my heart.
Nicholas H. Ridgely, the grandfather of the Hon. William Barret Ridgely, who married one of my daughters, and who served as United States Comptroller of the Currency for a number of years, was one of the leading bankers of the State, and was reputed to be one of the first millionaires of Illinois. He was a very careful banker, and was probably too careful to be popular among the people generally; but every one knew that there was no sounder institution in the State than the Ridgely National Bank. His son, Charles Ridgely, whom I always regarded as one of the most interesting men in Springfield, has passed away just about the time that I am writing these lines. Mr. Charles Ridgely was a man of great reading and great cultivation, and a man whom any one would like to meet. His death was a loss to Springfield of one of its most interesting and enterprising characters.
S. H. Jones ("Sam" Jones, as he was known) was another well-known character in Springfield, as well as throughout Illinois. He was a warm friend and supporter of mine in the early days.
James C. Robinson was twice elected to Congress. He and Governor Oglesby were opponents for State Senator from the district. A little story in this connection occurs to me, which Oglesby used to tell.
When running for the Senate, before the Civil War, Oglesby and Robinson travelled together over the district. The settlements in those days were very scattering, and as the rivals were good friends personally they agreed to go together and hold joint discussions. They held one every day, the understanding being that if either desired to talk anywhere else aside from the joint debate he had a right to do so.
At one place Robinson announced that he would make a speech in the courthouse. A large crowd greeted him, which he captured with one of his characteristic speeches. Oglesby was sitting in front of the hotel across the way by himself, and listening to the cheering. He became very uneasy lest Robinson should get the best of it.
Now it chanced that Oglesby could play a violin splendidly. A man came along with one in his hands, and Oglesby asked if he might borrow it for the evening, to which the man consented. He commenced playing in order to attract the crowd from Robinson, and in order to break up his meeting. He succeeded; one by one they came out of the courthouse, and when Oglesby swung into a stirring dance measure the crowd at once responded with an impromptu hoe-down.
Robinson, seeing his audience dwindling, quit speaking and came out himself. Taking in the situation at a glance, he pulled off his shoes and became the most enthusiastic participant, dancing first with one and then with another of his late hearers, winning them all back again and completely turning the tables against his adroit opponent.
This is a good illustration of early campaigning in the country districts of Illinois. There was the utmost good feeling, and a disposition to let the best man win.
Among the early men and incidents connected with the practice of the law in Springfield, in the sixties, and before and during the time I was Speaker of the House, the Rev. Peter Cartwright must not be forgotten. He was one of the prominent figures in the pioneer educational and religious life of the Western country, more particularly of Illinois. He was a wonderful type of the times— a man of great courage, of considerable ability, and most remarkable in his capacity as a minister of the Gospel. He believed in camp- meetings; and when Peter Cartwright conducted a camp-meeting the loafers and rowdies inclined to interrupt the worship knew they would invite trouble if they ventured to interfere with or annoy the meeting. He was ready, not only to preach the Gospel but to fight, as sometimes he felt it his duty to do. No man dared in the presence of Cartwright to interrupt the meeting, as in those times irresponsible parties hanging about such gatherings frequently attempted to do in his absence.