THE MEMORIES OF FIFTY YEARS:
Brief Biographical Notices of Distinguished Americans, and Anecdotes of Remarkable Men;
Interspersed with Scenes and Incidents Occurring during a Long Life of Observation Chiefly Spent in the Southwest
W. H. SPARKS
Philadelphia: Claxton, Remsen & Haffelfinger. Macon Ga.: J. W. Burke & Co. Stereotyped by J. Fagan & Son. Printed by Moore Bros.
MY BROTHER AND NEPHEW, THE HONORABLE OVID GARTEN SPARKS, AND COLONEL THOMAS HARDEMAN, OF MACON, GEORGIA.
This Volume is Dedicated
BY THEIR AGED AND AFFECTIONATE RELATIVE, TRUSTING THEY WILL ESTEEM IT, WHEN HE SHALL HAVE PASSED TO ETERNITY, AS SOME EVIDENCE OF THE AFFECTION BORNE THEM BY
In the same week, and within three days of the same date, I received from three Judges of the Supreme Court, of three States, the request that I would record my remembrances of the men and things I had known for fifty years. The gentlemen making this request were Joseph Henry Lumpkin, of Georgia; William L. Sharkey, of Mississippi, and James G. Taliaferro, of Louisiana.
From Judge Sharkey the request was verbal; from the other two it came in long and, to me, cherished letters. All three have been my intimate friends—Lumpkin from boyhood; the others for nearly fifty years. Judge Lumpkin has finished his work in time, and gone to his reward. Judges Sharkey and Taliaferro yet live, both now over seventy years of age. The former has retired from the busy cares of office, honored, trusted, and beloved; the latter still occupies a seat upon the Bench of the Supreme Court of Louisiana.
These men have all sustained unreproached reputations, and retained through their long lives the full confidence of the people of their respective States. I did not feel at liberty to resist their appeal: I had resided in all three of the States; had known long and intimately their people; had been extensively acquainted with very many of the most prominent men of the nation—and in the following pages is my compliance.
I have trusted only to my memory, and to a journal kept for many years, when a younger man than I am to-day—hastening to the completion of my seventieth year. Doubtless, I have made many mistakes of minor importance; but few, I trust, as to matters of fact. Of one thing I am sure: nothing has been wilfully written which can wound the feelings of any.
Many things herein contained may not be of general interest; but none which will not find interested readers; for while some of the individuals mentioned may not be known to common fame, the incidents in connection with them deserve to be remembered by thousands who knew them.
These Memories are put down without system, or order, as they have presented themselves, and have been related in a manner which I have attempted to make entertaining and instructive, without being prolix or tedious. They will be chiefly interesting to the people of the South; though much may, and, I hope, will be read by those of the North. Some of my happiest days have been passed in the North: at Cambridge some of my sons have been educated, and some of my dearest friends have been Northern men. Despite the strife which has gone far toward making us in heart a divided people, I have a grateful memory of many whose homes and graves were and are in New England.
Would that this strife had never been! But it has come, and I cannot forego a parent's natural feelings when mourning the loss of sons slain in the conflict, or the bitterness arising therefrom toward those who slew them. Yet, as I forgive, I hope to be forgiven.
There are but few now left who began the journey of life with me. Those of this number who still sojourn in our native land will find much in these pages familiar to their remembrance, and some things, the reading of which may revive incidents and persons long forgotten. In the West, in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas, there are many—the descendants of those who participated in events transpiring fifty years ago—who have listened at the parental hearth to their recital. To these I send this volume greeting; and if they find something herein to amuse and call up remembrances of the past, I shall feel gratified.
To the many friends I have in the Southwest, and especially in Louisiana and Mississippi, where I have sojourned well-nigh fifty years, and many of whom have so often urged upon me the writing of these Memories, I commit the book, and ask of them, and of all into whose hands it may fall, a lenient criticism, a kindly recollection, and a generous thought of our past intercourse. It is an inexorable fate that separates us, and I feel it is forever. This sad thought is alleviated, however, by the consciousness that the few remaining sands of life are falling at the home of my birth; and that when the end comes, as very soon it must, I shall be placed to sleep amid my kindred in the land of my nativity.
CHAPTER I. REVOLUTIONARY TRADITIONS.
Middle Georgia—Colonel David Love—His Widow—Governor Dunmore— Colonel Tarleton—Bill Cunningham—Colonel Fannin—My Grandmother's Bible—Solomon's Maxim Applied—Robertus Love—The Indian Warrior— Dragon Canoe—A Buxom Lass—General Gates—Marion—Mason L. Weems —Washington—"Billy Crafford"
CHAPTER II. PIONEER LIFE.
Settlement of Middle Georgia—Prowling Indians—Scouts and their Dogs—Classes of Settlers—Prominence of Virginians—Causes of Distinction—Clearing—Log-Rolling—Frolics—Teachers Cummings and Duffy—The Schoolmaster's Nose—Flogging—Emigration to Alabama
CHAPTER III. THE GEORGIA COMPANY.
Yazoo Purchase—Governor Matthews—James Jackson—Burning of the Yazoo Act—Development of Free Government—Constitutional Convention—Slavery: Its Introduction and Effects
CHAPTER IV. POLITICAL DISPUTATIONS.
Baldwin—A Yankee's Political Stability—The Yazoo Question—Party Feuds and Fights—Deaf and Dumb Ministers—Clay—Jackson—Buchanan— Calhoun—Cotton and Free Trade—The Clay and Randolph Duel
CHAPTER V. GEORGIA'S NOBLE SONS.
A Minister of a Day—Purity of Administration—Then and Now—Widow Timberlake—Van Buren's Letter—Armbrister and Arbuthnot—Old Hickory Settles a Difficulty—A Cause of the Late War—Honored Dead
CHAPTER VI. POPULAR CHARACTERISTICS.
A Frugal People—Laws and Religion—Father Pierce—Thomas W. Cobb— Requisites of a Political Candidate—A Farmer-Lawyer—Southern Humorists
CHAPTER VII. WITS AND FIRE-EATERS.
Judge Dooly—Lawyers and Blacksmiths—John Forsyth—How Juries were Drawn—Gum-Tree vs. Wooden-Leg—Preacher-Politicians—Colonel Gumming—George McDuffie
CHAPTER VIII. FIFTY YEARS AGO.
Governor Matthews—Indians—Topography of Middle Georgia—A New Country and its Settlers—Beaux and Belles—Early Training—Jesuit Teachers—A Mother's Influence—The Jews—Homely Sports—The Cotton Gin—Camp-Meetings
CHAPTER IX. PEDAGOGUES AND DEMAGOGUES.
Education—Colleges—School-Days—William and Mary—A Substitute— Boarding Around—Rough Diamonds—Caste—George M. Troup—A Scotch Indian—Alexander McGilvery—The McIntosh Family—Button Gwinnett —General Taylor—Matthew Talbot—Jesse Mercer—An Exciting Election
CHAPTER X. INDIAN TREATIES AND DIFFICULTIES.
The Creeks—John Quincy Adams—Hopothlayohola—Indian Oratory—Sulphur Springs—Treaties Made and Broken—An Independent Governor—Colonels John S. McIntosh, David Emanuel Twiggs, and Duncan Clinch—General Gaines—Christianizing the Indians—Cotton Mather—Expedient and Principle—The Puritanical Snake
CHAPTER XI. POLITICAL CHANGES.
Aspirants for Congress—A New Organization—Two Parties—A Protective Tariff—United States Bank—The American System—Internal Improvements —A Galaxy of Stars—A Spartan Mother's Advice—Negro-Dealer— Quarter-Races—Cock-Pitting—Military Blunders on Both Sides—Abner Green's Daughter—Andrew Jackson—Gwinn—Poindexter—Ad Interim— Generals by Nature as Civil Rulers
CHAPTER XII. GOSSIP.
Unrequited Love—Popping the Question—Practical Joking—Satan Let Loose—Rhea, but not Rhea—Teachings of Nature—H.S. Smith
CHAPTER XIII. INFLUENCE OF CHILDHOOD.
First Impressions—Fortune—Mirabeau B. Lamar—Dr. Alonzo Church—Julius Caesar—L.Q.C. Lamar—Texan Independence—Colquitt—Lumpkin—What a Great Man Can Do in One Day—Charles J. Jenkins
CHAPTER XIV. A REVOLUTIONARY VETERAN.
Tapping Reeve—James Gould—Colonel Benjamin Talmadge—The Execution of Major Andre—Character of Washington—A Breach of Discipline— Burr and Hamilton—Margaret Moncrief—Cowles Meade
CHAPTER XV. CHANGE OF GOVERNMENT.
Governor Wolcott—Toleration—Mr. Monroe—Private Life of Washington —Thomas Jefferson—The Object and Science of Government—Court Etiquette—Nature the Teacher and Guide in all Things
CHAPTER XVI. PARTY PRINCIPLES.
Origin of Parties—Federal and Republican Peculiarities—Jefferson's Principles and Religion—Democracy—Virginia and Massachusetts Parties—War with France—Sedition Law—Lyman Beecher—The Almighty Dollar—"Hail Columbia" and "Yankee Doodle"
CHAPTER XVII. CONGRESS IN ITS BRIGHTEST DAYS.
Missouri Compromise—John Randolph's Juba—Mr. Macon—Holmes and Crawford—Mr. Clay's Influence—James Barbour—Philip P. Barbour— Mr. Pinkney—Mr. Beecher, of Ohio—"Cuckoo, Cuckoo!"—National Roads —William Lowndes—William Roscoe—Duke of Argyle—Louis McLean— Whig and Democratic Parties
CHAPTER XVIII. FRENCH AND SPANISH TERRITORY.
Settlers on the Tombigbee and Mississippi Rivers—La Salle—Natchez —Family Apportionment—The Hill Country—Hospitality—Benefit of African Slavery—Capacity of the Negro—His Future
CHAPTER XIX. THE NATCHEZ TRADITIONS.
Natchez—Mizezibbee; or, The Parent of Many Waters—Indian Mounds— The Child of the Sun—Treatment of the Females—Poetic Marriages— Unchaste Maids and Pure Wives—Walking Archives—The Profane Fire— Alahoplechia—Oyelape—The Chief with a Beard
CHAPTER XX. EXPLORATION OF THE MISSISSIPPI VALLEY.
Chicago—Crying Indians—Chickasaws—De Soto—Feast of the Great Sun—Cane-Knives—Love-stricken Indian Maiden—Rape of the Natchez —Man's Will—Subjugation of the Waters—The Black Man's Mission—Its Decade
CHAPTER XXI. TWO STRANGE BEINGS.
Romance of Western Life—Met by Chance—Parting on the Levee—Meeting at the Sick-Bed—Convalescent—Love-Making—"Home, Sweet Home"— Theological Discussion—Uncle Tony—Wild, yet Gentle—An Odd Family—The Adventurer Speculates
CHAPTER XXII. THE ROMANCE CONTINUED.
Father Confessor—Open Confession—The Unread Will—Old Tony's Narrative—Squirrel Shooting—The Farewell Unsaid—Brothers-in-Law— Farewell Indeed
CHAPTER XXIII. WHEN SUCCESSFUL, RIGHT; WHEN NOT, WRONG.
Territorial Mississippi—Wilkinson—Adams—Jefferson—Warren—Claiborne—Union of the Factions—Colonel Wood—Chew—David Hunt—Joseph Dunbar—Society of Western Mississippi—Pop Visits of a Week to Tea—The Horse "Tom" and his Rider—Our Grandfathers' Days—An Emigrant's Outfit—My Share—George Poindexter—A Sudden Opening of a Court of Justice—The Caldwell and Gwinn Duel—Jackson's Opposition to the Governor of Mississippi
CHAPTER XXIV. THE SILVER-TONGUED ORATOR.
John A. Quitman—Robert J. Walker—Robert H. Adams—From a Cooper-Shop to the United States Senate—Bank Monopoly—Natchez Fencibles—Scott in Mexico—Thomas Hall—Sargent S. Prentiss—Vicksburg—Single-speech Hamilton—God-inspired Oratory—Drunk by Absorption—Killing a Tailor—Defence of Wilkinson
CHAPTER XXV. A FINANCIAL CRASH.
A Wonderful Memory—A Nation Without Debt—Crushing the National Bank—Rise of State Banks—Inflated Currency—Grand Flare-up—Take Care of Yourself—Commencing Anew—Failing to Reach an Obtuse Heart—King Alcohol does his Work—Prentiss and Foote—Love Me, Love my Dog—A Noble Spirit Overcome—Charity Covereth a Multitude of Sins
CHAPTER XXVI. ACADIAN FRENCH SETTLERS.
Sugar vs. Cotton—Acadia—A Specimen of Mississippi French Life— Bayou La Fourche—The Great Flood—Theological Arbitration—A Rustic Ball—Old-Fashioned Weddings—Creoles and Quadroons—The Planter—Negro Servants—Gauls and Anglo-Normans—Antagonism of Races
CHAPTER XXVII. ABOLITION OF LICENSED GAMBLING.
Baton Rouge—Florida Parishes—Dissatisfaction—Where there's a Will, there's a Way—Storming a Fort on Horseback—Annexation at the Point of the Poker—Raphignac and Larry Moore—Fighting the "Tiger"—Carrying a Practical Joke too Far—A Silver Tea-Set
CHAPTER XXVIII. THREE GREAT JUDGES.
A Speech in Two Languages—Long Sessions—Matthews, Martin, and Porter —A Singular Will—A Scion of '98—Five Hundred Dollars for a Little Fun with the Dogs—Cancelling a Note
CHAPTER XXIX. AMERICANIZING LOUISIANA.
Powers of Louisiana Courts—Governor William C.C. Claiborne—Cruel O'Reilly—Lefrenier and Noyan Executed—A Dutch Justice—Edward Livingston—A Caricature of General Jackson—Stephen Mazereau—A Speech in Three Languages—John R. Grymes—Settling a Ca. Sa.—Batture Property—A Hundred Thousand Dollar Fee
CHAPTER XXX. DIVISION OF NEW ORLEANS INTO MUNICIPALITIES.
American Hotel—Introduction of Steamboats—Faubourg St. Mary—Canal Street—St. Charles Hotel—Samuel J. Peters—James H. Caldwell—Fathers of the Municipality—Bernard Marigny—An Ass—A.B. Roman
CHAPTER XXXI. BLOWING UP THE LIONESS.
Doctor Clapp—Views and Opinions—Universal Destiny—Alexander Barrow —E.D. White—Cross-Breed, Irish Renegade, and Acadian—A Heroic Woman—The Ginseng Trade—I-I-I'll D-d-die F-f-first
CHAPTER XXXII. GRADUAL EXTINCTION OF THE RED MAN.
Line Creek Fifty Years Ago—Hopothlayohola—McIntosh—Undying Hatred—A Big Pow-wow—Massacre of the McIntoshes—Nehemathla—Onchees—The Last of the Race—A Brave Warrior—A White Man's Friendship—The Death-Song—Tuskega; or, Jim's Boy
CHAPTER XXXIII. FUN, FACT, AND FANCY.
Eugenius Nesbitt—Washington Poe—Yelverton P. King—Preparing to Receive the Court—Walton Tavern, in Lexington—Billy Springer, of Sparta—Freeman Walker—An Augusta Lawyer—A Georgia Major—Major Walker's Bed—Uncle Ned—Discharging a Hog on His Own Recognizance —Morning Admonition and Evening Counsel—A Mother's Request— Invocation—Conclusion
THE MEMORIES OF FIFTY YEARS.
MIDDLE GEORGIA—COLONEL DAVID LOVE—HIS WIDOW—GOVERNOR DUNMORE— COLONEL TARLETON—BILL CUNNINGHAM—COLONEL FANNIN—MY GRANDMOTHER'S BIBLE—SOLOMON'S MAXIM APPLIED—ROBERTUS LOVE—THE INDIAN WARRIOR— DRAGON CANOE—A BUXOM LASS—GENERAL GATES—MARION—MASON L. WEEMS— WASHINGTON—"BILLY CRAFFORD."
My earliest memories are connected with the first settlement of Middle Georgia, where I was born. My grandparents on the mother's side, were natives of North Carolina; and, I believe, of Anson county. My grandfather, Colonel David Love, was an active partisan officer in the service of the Continental Congress. He died before I was born; but my grandmother lived until I was seventeen years of age. As her oldest grandchild, I spent much of my time, in early boyhood, at her home near the head of Shoulderbone Creek in the county of Green. She was a little, fussy, Irish woman, a Presbyterian in religion, and a very strict observer of all the duties imposed upon her sect, especially in keeping holy the Sabbath day. All her children were grown up, married, and, in the language of the time, "gone away." She was in truth a lone woman, busying herself in household and farming affairs. With a few negroes, and a miserably poor piece of land, she struggled in her widowhood with fortune, and contrived, with North Carolina frugality and industry, not only to make a decent living, but to lay up something for a rainy day, as she phrases it. In her visits to her fields and garden, I ran by her side and listened to stories of Tory atrocities and Whig suffering in North Carolina during the Revolution. The infamous Governor Dunmore, the cruel Colonel Tarleton, and the murderous and thieving Bill Cunningham and Colonel Fannin, both Tories, and the latter natives to the soil, were presented graphically to me in their most hateful forms. In truth, before I had attained my seventh year, I was familiar with the history of the partisan warfare waged between Whig and Tory in North and South Carolina, from 1776 to 1782, from this good but garrulous old lady. I am not so certain she was good: she had a temper of her own, and a will and a way of her own; and was good-natured only when permitted this way without opposition, or cross. Perhaps I retain a more vivid memory of these peculiar traits than of any others characterizing her. She permitted no contradiction, and exacted implicit obedience, and this was well understood by everything about her. She was strict and exacting, and had learned from Solomon that to "spare the rod was to spoil the child." She read the Bible only; and it was the only book in the house. This Bible is still in existence; it was brought by my grandfather from Europe, and is now covered with the skin of a fish which he harpooned on his return voyage, appropriating the skin to this purpose in 1750. She had use for no other book, not even for an almanac, for at any moment she could tell the day of the month, the phase of the moon and the day General Washington captured Cornwallis; as also the day on which Washington died. Her reverence for the memory of my grandfather was idolatry. His cane hung with his hat just where he had habitually placed them during his latter days. His saddle and great sea-chest were preserved with equal care, and remained undisturbed from 1798 to 1817, precisely as he left them. I ventured to remove the cane upon one occasion; and, with a little negro or two, was merrily riding it around in the great lumber-room of the house, where scarcely any one ever went, when she came in and caught me. The pear-tree sprouts were immediately put into requisition, and the whole party most mercilessly thrashed. From that day forward the old buckhorn-headed cane was an awful reminder of my sufferings. She was careful not to injure the clothing of her victims, and made her appeals to the unshielded cuticle, and with a heavy hand for a small woman.
It was an ill-fashioned but powerfully-built house, and remains a monument to this day of sound timber and faithful work, braving time and the storm for eighty-two years. It was the first framed house built in the county, and I am sure, upon the poorest spot of land within fifty miles of where it stands. Here was born my uncle, Robertus Love, who was the first white child born in the State west of the Ogeechee River.
Colonel Love, my grandfather, was eccentric in many of his opinions, and was a Puritan in religious faith. Oliver Cromwell was his model of a statesman, and Praise-God Barebones his type of a Christian. While he was a boy his father married a second time, and, as is very frequently the case, there was no harmony between the step-mother and step-son. Their jarrings soon ripened into open war. To avoid expulsion from the paternal roof he "bundled and went." Nor did he rest until, in the heart of the Cherokee nation of Indians, he found a home with Dragon Canoe, then the principal warrior of the nation, who resided in a valley amid the mountains, and which is now Habersham County. With this chief, who at the time was young, he remained some four years, pursuing the chase for pleasure and profit. Thus accumulating a large quantity of peltries, he carried them on pack-horses to Charleston, and thence went with them to Europe. After disposing of his furs, which proved profitable, he wandered on foot about Europe for some eighteen months, and then, returning to London, he embarked for America.
During all this time he had not heard from his family. Arriving at Charleston he made his way back to the neighborhood of his birth. He was ferried across the Pedee river by a buxom lass, who captured his heart. Finding his father dead, he gathered up the little patrimony left him in his father's will, should he ever return to claim it: he then returned to the neighborhood of his sweetheart of the ferry; and, being a fine-looking man of six feet three inches, with great blue eyes, round and liquid; and, Othello-like, telling well the story of his adventures, he very soon beguiled the maiden's heart, and they were made one. About this time came off the battles of Concord and Lexington, inaugurating the Revolution. It was not, however, until after the declaration of independence, that he threw aside the plough and shouldered the musket for American independence.
That portion of North Carolina in which he resided had been mainly peopled by emigrants from Scotland. The war progressing into the South, found nearly all of these faithful in their allegiance to Britain. The population of English descent, in the main, espoused the cause of the colonies. With his neighbors Love was a favorite; he was very fleet in a foot-race, had remarkable strength; but, above all, was sagacious and strong of will. Such qualities, always appreciated by a rude people, at that particular juncture brought their possessor prominently forward, and he was chosen captain of a company composed almost to a man of his personal friends and acquaintances. Uniting himself with the regiment of Colonel Lynch, just then organized, and which was ordered to join the North Carolina line, they marched at once to join General Gates, then commanding in the South. Under the command of this unfortunate general he remained until after the battle of Camden. Here Gates experienced a most disastrous defeat, and the whole country was surrendered to the British forces.
South Carolina and North Carolina, especially their southern portions, were entirely overrun by the enemy, who armed the Tories and turned them loose to ravage the country. Gates's army was disorganized, and most of those who composed it from the Carolinas returned to their homes. Between these and the Scotch Tories, as the Loyalists were termed, there was a continual partisan strife, each party resorting to the most cruel murders, burning and destroying the homes and the property of each other. Partisan bands were organized by each, and under desperate leaders did desperate deeds. It was then and there that Marion and Fanning became conspicuous, and were respectively the terror of Whigs and Tories.
There were numerous others of like character, though less efficient and less conspicuous. The exploits of such bands are deemed beneath the dignity of history, and now only live in the memories of those who received them traditionally from the actors, their associates or descendants. Those acts constitute mainly the tragic horrors of war, and evidence the merciless inhumanity of enraged men, unrestrained by civil or moral law. Injuries he deems wanton prompt the passions of his nature to revenge, and he hastens to retaliate upon his enemy, with increased horrors, their savage brutalities.
As the leader of a small band of neighbors who had united for protection and revenge, Colonel Love became conspicuous for his courage and cruelty. It was impossible for these, his associates, as for their Tory neighbors and enemies, to remain at their homes, or even to visit them, except at night, and then most stealthily. The country abounds with swamps more or less dense and irreclaimable, which must always remain a hiding-place for the unfortunate or desperate. In these the little bands by day were concealed, issuing forth at night to seek for food or spoils. Their families were often made the victims of revenge; and instances were numerous where feeble women and little children were slain in cold blood by neighbors long and familiarly known to each other, in retaliation of like atrocities perpetrated by their husbands, sons, or brothers.
It was a favorite pastime with my grandmother, when the morning's work was done, to uncover her flax-wheel, seat herself, and call me to sit by her, and, after my childish manner, read to her from the "Life of General Francis Marion," by Mason L. Weems, the graphic account of the general's exploits, by the venerable parson. There was not a story in the book that she did not know, almost as a party concerned, and she would ply her work of flax-spinning while she gave me close and intense attention. At times, when the historian was at fault in his facts—and, to say the truth, that was more frequently the case than comports with veracious history—she would cease the impelling motion of her foot upon the pedal of her little wheel, drop her thread, and, gently arresting the fly of her spool, she would lift her iron-framed spectacles, and with great gravity say: "Read that again. Ah! it is not as it happened, your grandfather was in that fight, and I will tell you how it was." This was so frequently the case, that now, when more than sixty years have flown, I am at a loss to know, if the knowledge of most of these facts which tenaciously clings to my memory, was originally derived from Weems's book, or my grandmother's narrations. In these forays and conflicts, whenever my grandfather was a party, her information was derived from him and his associates, and of course was deemed by her authentic; and whenever these differed from the historian's narrative, his, of consequence, was untrue. Finally, Weems, upon one of his book-selling excursions, which simply meant disposing of his own writings, came through her neighborhood, and with the gravity of age, left verbally his own biography with Mrs. McJoy, a neighbor; this made him, as he phrased it, General Washington's preacher. He was never after assailed as a lying author: but whenever his narrative was opposed to her memory, she had the excuse for him, that his informant had deceived him.
To have seen General Washington, even without having held the holy office of his preacher, sanctified in her estimation any and every one. She had seen him, and it was the especial glory of her life. Yes, she had seen him, and remembered minutely his eyes, his hair, his mouth and his hands—and even his black horse, with a star in his face, and his one white foot and long, sweeping tail. So often did I listen to the story, that in after boyhood I came to believe I had seen him also, though his death occurred twenty days before I was born. My dear, good mother has often told me that but for an attack of ague, which kept the venerable lady from our home for a month or more, I should have been honored with bearing the old hero's name through life. So intent was she in this particular, that she never liked my being named after Billy Crafford (for so she pronounced his name) for whom the partiality of my father caused him to name me. Few remain to remember the horrors of this partisan warfare. The very traditions are being obliterated by those of the recent civil war, so rife with scenes and deeds sufficiently horrible for the appetite of the curious in crime and cruelty.
SETTLEMENT OF MIDDLE GEORGIA—PROWLING INDIANS—SCOUTS AND THEIR DOGS—CLASSES OF SETTLERS—PROMINENCE OF VIRGINIANS—CAUSES OF DISTINCTION—CLEARING—LOG-ROLLING—FROLICS—TEACHERS CUMMINGS AND DUFFY—THE SCHOOLMASTER'S NOSE—FLOGGING—EMIGRATION TO ALABAMA.
The early settlement of Middle Georgia was principally by emigrants from Virginia and North Carolina. These were a rough, poor, but honest people, with little or no fortunes, and who were quite as limited in education as in fortune. Their necessities made them industrious and frugal. Lands were procured at the expense of surveying; the soil was virgin and productive; rude cabins, built of poles, constituted not only their dwellings but every necessary outbuilding. Those who first ventured beyond the Ogeechee generally selected some spot where a good spring of water was found, not overlooked by an elevation so close as to afford an opportunity to the Indians, then very troublesome, to fire into the little stockade forts erected around these springs for their security against the secret attacks of the prowling and merciless Creeks and Cherokees.
Usually several families united in building and living in these forts. As soon as this protection was completed, the work of clearing away the surrounding forest was commenced, that the land should afford a field for cultivation. While thus employed, sentinels were stationed at such points in the neighborhood as afforded the best opportunity for descrying the approach of Indians, and the watch was most careful. When those employed in hunting (for every community had its hunters) discovered, or thought they had discovered signs of the presence of the savages, scouts were immediately sent out to discover if they were lurking anywhere in the neighborhood. This was the most arduous and perilous duty of the pioneers, and not unfrequently the scout, or spy as he was usually termed, went to return no more. When seed-time came, corn, a small patch of cotton and another of flax were planted, and cultivation continued under the same surveillance.
The dog, always the companion of man, was carefully trained to search for the prowling Indians; and by daylight every morning the clearing, as the open lands were universally termed; was passed around by a cautious scout, always preceded by his dogs, who seemed as conscious of their duty and as faithful in its discharge as was their master. If he reported no Indians, the work of cultivation commenced, and the sentinels repaired to their posts. These were usually changed whenever the slightest sign of Indians anywhere in the country could be found, lest their posts might have been found and marked, and ambushed at night. Yet, despite this prudent caution, many a sentinel perished at his post. The unerring arrow gave no alarm, and the sentinel slain, opened an approach for the savages; and not unfrequently parties at labor were thus surprised and shot in full view of those in the fort.
Occasionally an emigrant brought with him a slave or two: these were rich, and invariably were the leading men in the communities. Those from Virginia were more frequently possessed of this species of property than those from the Carolinas, and, coming from an older country, had generally enjoyed better opportunities and were more cultivated. A common necessity harmonized all, and the state of society was a pure democracy. These communities were usually from twenty to fifty miles apart, and about them a nucleus was formed, inviting those who sought the new country for a home to locate in the immediate vicinity. Security and the enjoyment of social intercourse were more frequently the incentives for these selections than the fertility of the soil or other advantages. One peculiarity was observable, which their descendants, in their emigration to the West, continue to this day to practise: they usually came due west from their former homes, and were sure to select, as nearly as possible, a new one in the same parallel, and with surroundings as nearly like those they had left as possible. With the North Carolinian, good spring-water, and pine-knots for his fire, were the sine qua non. These secured, he went to work with the assiduity and perseverance of a beaver to build his house and open his fields. The Virginians, less particular, but more ambitious, sought the best lands for grain and tobacco; consequently they were more diffused, and their improvements, from their superior wealth, were more imposing.
Wealth in all communities is comparative, and he who has only a few thousand dollars, where no one else has so much, is the rich man, and ever assumes the rich man's prerogatives and bearing. All experience has proved that as a man estimates himself, so in time will the community esteem him; and he who assumes to lead or dictate will soon be permitted to do so, and will become the first in prominence and influence in his neighborhood, county, or State. Greatness commences humbly and progresses by assumption. The humble ruler of a neighborhood, like a pebble thrown into a pond, will continue to increase the circle of his influence until it reaches the limits of his county. The fathers speak of him, the children hear of him, his name is a household word; if he but assumes enough, in time he becomes the great man of the county; and if with impudence he unites a modicum of talent, well larded with a cunning deceit, it will not be long before he is Governor or member of Congress. It is not surprising, then, that in nearly every one of these communities the great man was a Virginian. It has been assumed by the Virginians that they have descended from a superior race, and this may be true as regards many families whose ancestors were of Norman descent; but it is not true of the mass of her population; and for one descendant from the nobility and gentry of the mother country, there are thousands of pure Anglo-Saxon blood. It was certainly true, from the character and abilities of her public men, in her colonial condition and in the earlier days of the republic, she had a right to assume a superiority; but this, I fancy, was more the result of her peculiar institutions than of any superiority of race or greater purity of blood. I am far, however, from underrating the influence of blood. That there are species of the same race superior in mental as well as in physical formation is certainly true. The peculiar organization of the brain, its fineness of texture in some, distinguish them as mentally superior to others, as the greater development of bone and muscle marks the superiority of physical power. Very frequently this difference is seen in brothers, and sometimes in families of the same parents—the males in some usurping all the mental acumen, and in others the females. Why this is so, I cannot stop to speculate.
Virginia, in her many divisions of territory, was granted to the younger sons of the nobility and gentry of England. They came with the peculiar habits of their class, and located upon these grants, bringing with them as colonists their dependants in England, and retaining here all the peculiarities of caste. The former were the governing class at home, and asserted the privilege here; the latter were content that it should be so. In the formation of the first constitution for Virginia, the great feature of a landed aristocracy was fully recognized in the organic law. The suffragist was the landed proprietor, and in every county where his possessions were this right attached. They recognized landed property as the basis of government, and demanded the right for it of choosing the lawmakers and the executors of the law. All power, and very nearly all of the wealth of the State, was in the hands of the landlords, and these selected from their own class or caste the men who were to conduct the government. To this class, too, were confined most of the education and learning in the new State; and in choosing for the Legislature or for Congress, State pride and the love of power prompted the selection of their brightest and best men.
Oratory was esteemed the first attribute of superior minds, and was assiduously cultivated. There were few newspapers, and the press had not attained the controlling power over the public mind as now. Political information was disseminated chiefly by public speaking, and every one aspiring to lead in the land was expected to be a fine speaker. This method, and the manner of voting, forced an open avowal of political opinion. Each candidate, upon the day of election, took his seat upon the bench of the judge in the county court-house, and the suffragist appeared at the bar, demanding to exercise his privilege in the choice of his representative. This was done by declaring the names of those he voted for. These peculiar institutions cultivated open and manly bearing, pride, and independence. There was little opportunity for the arts of the demagogue; and the elevation of sentiment in the suffragist made him despise the man, however superior his talents, who would attempt them. The voter's pride was to sustain the power of his State in the national councils, to have a great man for his Governor; they were the representatives of his class, and he felt his own importance in the greatness of his representative. It is not to be wondered at, under these circumstances, that Virginia held for many years the control of the Government, furnishing Presidents of transcendent abilities to the nation, and filling her councils with men whose talents and eloquence and proud and independent bearing won for them, not only the respect of the nation's representatives, but the power to control the nation's destinies, and to be looked upon as belonging to a superior race.
There were wanting, however, two great elements in the nation's institutions, to sustain in its pride and efficiency this peculiar advantage, to wit, the entailment of estates, and the right of primogeniture. Those landed estates soon began to be subdivided, and in proportion as they dwindled into insignificance, so began to perish the prestige of their proprietors. The institution of African slavery served for a long time to aid in continuing the aristocratic features of Virginia society, though it conferred no legal privileges. As these, and the lands, found their way into many hands, the democratic element began to aspire and to be felt. The struggle was long and severe, but finally, in 1829 or 1830, the democratic element triumphed, and a new constitution was formed, extending universal suffrage to white men. This degraded the constituent and representative alike, and all of Virginia's power was soon lost in the councils of the nation. But the pride of her people did not perish with her aristocracy; this continued, and permeated her entire people. They preserved it at home, and carried it wherever they went. Those whose consideration at home was at zero, became of the first families abroad, until Virginia pride became a by-word of scorn in the western and more southern States. Yet despite all this, there is greatness in the Virginians: there is superiority in her people,—a loftiness of soul, a generosity of hospitality, a dignified patience under suffering, which command the respect and admiration of every appreciative mind.
Very soon after the Revolution, the tide of emigration began to flow toward Tennessee, Kentucky, and Georgia. Those from Virginia who sought new homes went principally to Kentucky, as much because it was a part of the Old Dominion, as on account of climate and soil. Those from North Carolina and South Carolina preferred Tennessee, and what was then known as Upper Georgia, but now as Middle Georgia; yet there was a sprinkling here and there throughout Georgia from Virginia. Many of these became leading men in the State, and their descendants still boast of their origin, and in plenary pride point to such men as William H. Crawford and Peter Early as shining evidences of the superiority of Virginia's blood.
Most of these emigrants, however, were poor; but where all were poor, this was no degradation. The concomitants of poverty in densely populated communities—where great wealth confers social distinction and frowns from its association the poor, making poverty humility, however elevated its virtues—were unknown in these new countries. The nobler virtues, combined with energy and intellect, alone conferred distinction; and I doubt if the world, ever furnished a more honest, virtuous, energetic, or democratic association of men and women than was, at the period of which I write, to be found constituting the population of these new States. From whatever cause arising, there certainly was, in the days of my early memory, more scrupulous truth, open frankness, and pure, blunt honesty pervading the whole land than seem to characterize its present population. It was said by Nathaniel Macon, of North Carolina, that bad roads and fist-fights made the best militia on earth; and these may have been, in some degree, the means of moulding into fearless honesty the character of these people. They encountered all the hardships of opening and subduing the country, creating highways, bridges, churches, and towns with their public buildings. These they met cheerfully, and working with a will, triumphed. After months of labor, a few acres were cleared and the trees cut into convenient lengths for handling, and then the neighbors were invited to assist in what was called a log-rolling. This aid was cheerfully given, and an offer to pay for it would have been an insult. It was returned in kind, however, when a neighbor's necessities required. These log-rollings were generally accompanied with a quilting, which brought together the youth of the neighborhood; and the winding up of the day's work was a frolic, as the dance and other amusements of the time were termed. Upon occasions like this, feats of strength and activity universally constituted a part of the programme. The youth who could pull down his man at the end of the hand-stick, throw him in a wrestle, or outstrip him in a footrace, was honored as the best man in the settlement, and was always greeted with a cheer from the older men, a slap on the shoulder by the old ladies, and the shy but approving smiles of the girls,—had his choice of partners in the dance, and in triumph rode home on horseback with his belle, the horse's consciousness of bearing away the championship manifesting itself in an erect head and stately step.
The apparel of male and female was of home-spun, woven by the mothers and sisters, and was fashioned, I was about to say, by the same fair hands; but these were almost universally embrowned with exposure and hardened by toil. Education was exceedingly limited: the settlements were sparse, and school-houses were at long intervals, and in these the mere rudiments of an English education were taught—spelling, reading, and writing, with the four elementary rules of arithmetic; and it was a great advance to grapple with the grammar of the language. As population and prosperity increased, their almost illiterate teachers gave place to a better class; and many of my Georgia readers will remember as among these the old Irish preachers, Cummings, and that remarkable brute, Daniel Duffee. He was an Irishman of the Pat Freney stripe, and I fancy there are many, with gray heads and wrinkled fronts, who can look upon the cicatrices resulting from his merciless blows, and remember that Milesian malignity of face, with its toad-like nose, with the same vividness with which it presents itself to me to-day. Yes, I remember it, and have cause. When scarcely ten years of age, in his little log school-house, the aforesaid resemblance forced itself upon me with such vim that involuntarily I laughed. For this outbreak against the tyrant's rules I was called to his frowning presence.
"What are you laughing at, you whelp?" was the rude inquiry.
Tremblingly I replied: "You will whip me if I tell you."
"And you little devil, I will whip you if you don't," was his rejoinder, as he reached for his well-trimmed hickory, one of many conspicuously displayed upon his table. With truthful sincerity I answered:
"Father Duffy, I was laughing to think how much your nose is like a frog."
It was just after play-time, and I was compelled to stand by him and at intervals of ten minutes receive a dozen lashes, laid on with brawny Irish strength, until discharged with the school at night. To-day I bear the marks of that whipping upon my shoulders and in my heart. But Duffy was not alone in the strictness and severity of his rules and his punishments. Children were taught to believe that there could be no discipline in a school of boys and girls without the savage brutality of the lash, and the teacher who met his pupils with a caressing smile was considered unworthy his vocation. Learning must be thrashed into the tender mind; nothing was such a stimulus to the young memory as the lash and the vulgar, abusive reproof of the gentle and meritorious teacher.
There was great eccentricity of character in all the conduct and language of Duffy. He had his own method of prayer, and his own peculiar style of preaching, frequently calling out the names of persons in his audience whom it was his privilege to consider the chiefest of sinners, and to implore mercy for them in language offensive almost to decency. Sometimes, in the presence of persons inimical to each other, he would ask the Lord to convert the sinners and make the fools friends, first telling the Lord who they were by name, to the no small amusement of his most Christian audience; many of whom would in deep devotion respond with a sonorous "Amen."
From such a population sprang the present inhabitants of Georgia; and by such men were they taught, in their budding boyhood, the rudiments of an English education;—such, I mean, of the inhabitants who still live and remember Duffy, Cummings, and McLean. They are few, but the children of the departed remember traditionally these and their like, in the schoolmasters of Georgia from 1790 to 1815.
At the close of the war of 1812-15, a new impetus was given to everything throughout the South, and especially to education. The ambition for wealth seized upon her people, the high price of cotton favored its accumulation, and with it came new and more extravagant wants, new and more luxurious habits. The plain homespun jean coat gave way to the broad-cloth one; and the neat, Turkey-red striped Sunday frock of the belle yielded to the gaudy red calico one, and there was a sniff of aristocratic contempt in the upturned nose towards those who, from choice or necessity, continued in the old habits.
Material wealth augmented rapidly, and with it came all of its assumptions. The rich lands of Alabama were open to settlement. The formidable Indian had been humbled, and many of the wealthiest cultivators of the soil were commencing to emigrate to a newer and more fertile country, where smiling Fortune beckoned them.
The first to lead off in this exodus was the Bibb family, long distinguished for wealth and influence in the State. The Watkinses, the Sheroos, and Dearings followed: some to north, some to south Alabama. W.W. Bibb was appointed, by Mr. Madison, Territorial Governor of Alabama, and was followed to the new El Dorado by his brothers, Thomas, John Dandridge, and Benajah, all men of substance and character.
For a time this rage for a new country seemed to threaten Georgia and South Carolina with the loss of their best population. This probably would have been the result of the new acquisition, but, in its midst, the territory between the Ocmulgee and Chattahoochee was ceded by the Indians, and afforded a new field for settlement, which effectually arrested this emigration at its flood. The new territory added to the dominion of Georgia was acquired mainly through the energy and pertinacity of George M. Troup, at the time Governor of Georgia.
I have much to record of my memories concerning this new acquisition, but must reserve them for a new chapter.
THE GEORGIA COMPANY.
YAZOO PURCHASE—GOVERNOR MATHEWS—JAMES JACKSON—BURNING OF THE YAZOO ACT—DEVELOPMENT OF FREE GOVERNMENT—CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION—SLAVERY: ITS INTRODUCTION AND EFFECTS.
The grant by the British Government of the territory of Georgia to General Oglethorpe and company, comprised what now constitutes the entire States of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, except that portion of Alabama and Mississippi lying below the thirty-first degree of north latitude, which portions of those States were originally part of West Florida.
The French settlements extended up the Mississippi, embracing both sides of that river above the mouth of Red River, which discharges into the former in the thirty-first degree of north latitude. The river from the mouth of the Bayou Manshac, which left the river fourteen miles below Baton Rouge, on the east side, up to the thirty-first degree of north latitude, was the boundary line between West Florida and Louisiana. Above this point the French claimed jurisdiction on both sides; but Georgia disputed this jurisdiction over the east bank, and claimed to own from the thirty-first to the thirty-sixth degree of latitude. There were many settlements made by Americans upon this territory at a very early day,—one at Natchez, one at Fort Adams, and several on the Tombigbee, the St. Stephens, at McIntosh's Bluff, and on Bassett's Creek. These settlements formed the nucleus of an American population in the States of Mississippi and Alabama. The lands bordering upon these rivers and their tributaries were known to be exceedingly fertile, and proffered inducements to settlers unequalled in all the South. Speculation was very soon directed to these regions. A company was formed of citizens of Georgia and Virginia for the purchase of an immense tract of territory, including most of what is now Mississippi and Alabama. This company was known as the Georgia Company, and the territory as the Yazoo Purchase. It was a joint-stock company, and managed by trustees or directors. The object was speculation. It was intended to purchase from Georgia this domain, then to survey it and subdivide it into tracts to suit purchasers. Parties were delegated to make this purchase: this could only be done by the Legislature and by special act passed for that purpose. The proposition was made, and met with formidable opposition. The scheme was a gigantic one and promised great results, and the parties concerned were bold and unscrupulous. They very soon ascertained that means other than honorable to either party must be resorted to to secure success. The members to be operated upon were selected, and the company's agents began the work. Enough was made, by donations of stock and the direct payment of money by those interested in the scheme, to effect the passage of the Act and secure the contract of purchase and sale. The opposition denied the power of the Legislature to sell; asserting that the territory was sacred to the people of the State, and that those, in selecting their representatives, had never contemplated delegating any such powers as would enable them to dispose by sale of any part of the public domain; that it was the province of the Legislature, under the Constitution, to pass laws for the general good alone, and not to barter or sell any portion of the territory of the State to be separated from the domain and authority of the State. They insisted that the matter should be referred to the people, who at the next election of members to the Legislature should declare their will and intention as to this sale.
On the other side they were met with the argument, that the Legislature was sovereign and the supreme power of the State, and might rightfully do anything, not forbidden in the Constitution, pertaining to sovereignty, which they in their wisdom might deem essential to the general welfare; that the territory included in the grant to Oglethorpe and company was entirely too extended, and that by a sale a new State or States would be formed, which would increase the political power of the South—especially in the United States Senate, where she greatly needed representation to counterbalance the influence of the small States of the North in that body. These arguments were specious, but it was well understood they were only meant to justify a vote for the measure which corruption had secured.
The Act was passed by a bare majority of both branches of the Legislature, and the sale consummated. Before the passage of this measure, the will of the people had been sufficiently expressed in the indignant outburst of public feeling, as to leave no doubt upon the minds of the corrupt representatives that they had not only forfeited the public confidence, but had actually imperilled their personal safety. Upon the return to their homes, after the adjournment, they were not only met with universal scorn, but with inappeasable rage. Some of the most guilty were slain; some had their houses burned over their heads, and others fled the State; one was pursued and killed in Virginia, and all not only entailed upon themselves infamy, but also upon their innocent posterity; and to-day, to be known as the descendant of a Yazoo man is a badge of disgrace. The deed, however, was done: how to undo it became an agitating question. The Legislature next ensuing was elected pledged to repeal the odious Act; and upon its convening, all made haste to manifest an ardent zeal in this work.
At the time of the passage of this Act, the Legislature sat in Augusta, and the Governor who by the Act was empowered to make the sale was George Mathews. Mathews was an Irishman by birth, and was very illiterate, but a man of strong passions and indomitable will. During the war of the Revolution he had, as a partisan officer, gained some distinction, and in the upper counties exercised considerable influence. Many anecdotes are related of his intrepidity and daring, and quite as many of his extraordinary orthography. At the battle of Eutaw Springs, in South Carolina, he was severely wounded, at the moment when the Continental forces were retiring to a better position. A British soldier, noticing some vestiges of a uniform upon him, lifted his musket to stab him with the bayonet; his commander caught the weapon, and angrily demanded, "Would you murder a wounded officer? Forward, sir!" Mathews, turning upon his back, asked, "To whom do I owe my life?" "If you consider it an obligation, sir, to me," answered the lieutenant. Mathews saw the uniform was British, and furiously replied, "Well, sir, I want you to know that I scorn a life saved by a d——d Briton." The writer had the anecdote from a distinguished citizen of Georgia, who was himself lying near by, severely wounded, and who in one of his sons has given to Georgia a Governor.
General Wade Hampton, George Walker, William Longstreet, Zachariah Cox, and Matthew McAllister were the parties most active in procuring the passage of the Yazoo Act. That bribery was extensively practised, there is no doubt, and the suspicion that it even extended to the Executive gained credence as a fact, and was the cause of preventing his name ever being given to a county in the State: and it is a significant fact of this suspicion, and also of the great unpopularity of the Act, that to this day every effort to that end has failed. No act of Governor Mathews ever justified any such suspicion. As Governor of the State, and believing the sovereign power of the State was in the Legislature, and consequently the power to dispose of the public domain, he only approved the Act as the State's Executive, and fulfilled the duties assigned to him by the law. But suspicion fastened upon him, and its effects remain to this day.
The pertinacious discussions between the parties purchasing and those opposed to the State's selling and her authority to sell, created immense excitement, and pervaded the entire State. The decision of the Supreme Court of the United States was invoked in the case of Fletcher versus Peck, which settled the question of the power of the State to sell the public domain, and the validity of the sale made by the State to the Georgia Company. In the meantime the Legislature of Georgia had repealed the law authorizing the Governor to sell. This decision of the Supreme Court brought about an amicable adjustment of the difficulties between the Company and the State, with the Government of the United States as a third party.
The excitement was not so much on account of the sale, though this was bitter, as of the corruption which procured it. The test of public confidence and social respect was opposition to the Yazoo fraud. Every candidate at the ensuing election for members of the Legislature was compelled to declare his position on the subject of repealing this Act, and, almost to a man, every one who believed in the power of the State to sell, and that rights had vested in the purchasers and their assigns, was defeated.
James Jackson, a young, ardent, and talented man, who had in very early life, by his abilities and high character, so won the public confidence that he had been elected Governor of the State, when he was ineligible because of his youth, was at this time a member of Congress. He made a tour through the State, preaching a crusade against the corrupt Legislature, and denouncing those who had produced and profited by this corruption, inflaming the public mind almost to frenzy. He resided in Savannah, and was at the head of the Republican or Jeffersonian party, which was just then being organized in opposition to the administration of John Adams, the successor of Washington. His parents had emigrated from England, and fixed their home in Savannah, where young Jackson was born, and where, from the noble qualities of his nature, he had become immensely popular.
Talent and virtuous merit at that period was the passport to public confidence. Had it continued to be, we should never have known the present deplorable condition of the country, with the Government sinking into ruin ere it has reached the ten o'clock of national life.
His Shibboleth was, that the disgrace of the State must be wiped out by the repeal of the Yazoo Act; and repeal rang from every mouth, from Savannah to the mountains. Jackson resigned his seat in Congress, and was elected a member of the Legislature. Immediately upon the assembling of this body, a bill was introduced repealing the odious Act, and ordering the records containing it to be burned. This was carried out to the letter. Jackson, heading the Legislature and the indignant public, proceeded in procession to the public square in Louisville, Jefferson County, where the law and the fagots were piled; when, addressing the assembled multitude, he denounced the men who had voted for the law as bribed villains—those who had bribed them, and the Governor who had signed it; and declared that fire from heaven only could sanctify the indignation of God and man in consuming the condemned record of accursed crime. Then, with a Promethean or convex glass condensing the sun's rays, he kindled the flame which consumed the records containing the hated Yazoo Act.
Jackson was a man of ordinary height, slender, very erect in his carriage, with red hair and intensely blue eyes. His manners were courteous, affable, and remarkable for a natural dignity which added greatly to his influence with the people. He was the model from which was grown that chivalry and nobility of soul and high bearing so characteristic of the people of Southern Georgia. In truth, the essence of his character seemed subtilly to pervade the entire circle in which he moved, inspiring a purity of character, a loftiness of honor, which rebuked with its presence alone everything that was low, little, or dishonest. Subsequently he was elected Governor of the State, bringing all the qualities of his nature into the administration of the office; he gave it a dignity and respectability never subsequently degraded, until an unworthy son of South Carolina, the pus and corruption of unscrupulous party, was foisted into the position. Strength of will, a ripe judgment, and purity of intention, were the great characteristics distinguishing him in public life, and these have endeared his name to the people of Georgia, where now remain many of his descendants, some of whom have filled high positions in the State and United States, and not one has ever soiled the honor or tarnished the name with an act unworthy a gentleman.
The Revolutionary struggle called out all the nobler qualities nature has bestowed on man, in those who conceived the desire and executed the determination to be free. The heroic was most prominent: woman seemed to forget her feebleness and timidity, and boldly to dare, and with increased fortitude to bear every danger, every misfortune, with a heroism scarcely compatible with the delicacy of her nature. To this, or some other inexplicable cause, nature seemed to resort in preparation for coming events. In every State there came up men, born during the war or immediately thereafter, of giant minds—men seemingly destined to form and give direction to a new Government suited to the genius of the people and to the physical peculiarities of the country where it was to control the destinies of hundreds of millions of human beings yet unborn, and where the soil was virgin and unturned, which nature had prepared for their coming. This required a new order of men. These millions were to be free in the fullest sense of the word; they were only to be controlled by laws; and the making of these laws was to be their own work, and nature was responding to the exigencies of man.
The early probation of independent government taught the necessity of national concentration as to the great features of government, at the same time demonstrating the importance of keeping the minor powers of government confined to the authority of the States. In the assembling of a convention for this purpose, which grew out of the free action of the people of each State, uninfluenced by law or precedent, we see congregated a body of men combining more talent, more wisdom, and more individuality of character than perhaps was ever aggregated in any other public body ever assembled. From this convention of sages emanated the Constitution of the United States; and most of those constituting this body reassembled in the first Congress, which sat as the supreme power in the United States. It was these men and their coadjutors who inaugurated and gave direction to the new Government. Under its operations, the human mind and human soul seemed to expand and to compass a grasp it had scarcely known before. There were universal content and universal harmony. The laws were everywhere respected, and everywhere enforced. The freedom of thought, and the liberty of action unrestrained, stimulated an ambition in every man to discharge his duties faithfully to the Government, and honestly in all social relations. There was universal security to person and property, because every law-breaker was deemed a public enemy, and not only received the law's condemnation, but the public scorn. Under such a Government the rapid accumulation of wealth and population was a natural consequence. The history of the world furnishes no example comparable with the progress of the United States to national greatness. The civilized world appeared to feel the influence of her example and to start anew in the rivalry of greatness. Her soil's surplus products created the means of a widely extended commerce, and Americans can proudly refer to the eighty years of her existence as a period showing greater progress in wealth, refinement, the arts and sciences, and human liberty, than was ever experienced in any two centuries of time within the historical period of man's existence. My theme expands, and I am departing from the purposes of this work; yet I cannot forbear the expression of opinion as to the causes of this result. I know I shall incur the deepest censure from the professors of a mawkish philanthropy, and a hypocritical religion which is cursing with its cant the very sources of this unparalleled progress, this unexampled prosperity.
Slavery was introduced into the Colonies by English merchants about two centuries since: this was to supply a necessity—labor—for the purpose of developing the resources of this immense and fertile country. The African was designed by the Creator to subserve this purpose. His centre of creation was within the tropics, and his physical organization fitted him, and him alone, for field labor in the tropical and semi-tropical regions of the earth. He endures the sun's heat without pain or exhaustion in this labor, and yet he has not nor can he acquire the capacity to direct profitably this labor. It was then the design of the Creator that this labor should be controlled and directed by a superior intelligence. In the absence of mental capacity, we find him possessed of equal physical powers with any other race, with an amiability of temper which submits without resistance to this control. We find him, too, without moral, social, or political aspirations, contented and happy in the condition of servility to this superior intelligence, and rising in the scale of humanity to a condition which under any other circumstances his race had never attained. I may be answered that this labor can be had from the black as a freeman as well as in the condition of a slave. To this I will simply say, experience has proved this to be an error. Such is the indolence and unambitious character of the negro that he will not labor, unless compelled by the apprehension of immediate punishment, to anything approaching his capacity for labor. His wants are few, they are easily supplied, and when they are, there is no temptation which will induce him to work. He cares nothing for social position, and will steal to supply his necessities, and feel no abasement in the legal punishment which follows his conviction; nor is his social status among his race damaged thereby. As a slave to the white man, he becomes and has proved an eminently useful being to his kind—in every other condition, equally conspicuous as a useless one. The fertility of the soil and the productions of the tropical regions of the earth demonstrate to the thinking mind that these were to be cultivated and made to produce for the uses and prosperity of the human family. The great staples of human necessity and human luxury are produced here in the greatest abundance, and the great majority of these nowhere else. The white man, from his physical organization, cannot perform in these regions the labor necessary to their production. His centre of creation is in the temperate zones, and only there can he profitably labor in the earth's cultivation. But his mental endowments enable him to appropriate all which nature has supplied for the necessities of life and the progress of his race. He sees and comprehends in nature the designs of her Creator: these designs he develops, and the consequence is a constant and enlightened progress of his race, and the subjection of the physical world to this end.
He finds the soil, the climate, the production, and the labor united, and he applies his intelligence to develop the design of this combination; and the consequence has been the wonderful progress of the last two centuries. I hold it as a great truth that nature points to her uses and ends; that to observe these and follow them is to promote the greatest happiness to the human family; and that wherever these aims are diverted or misdirected, retrogression and human misery are the consequence. In all matters, experience is a better test than speculation; and to surrender a great practical utility to a mere theory is great folly. But it has been done, and we abide the consequences.
In all nations, a spurious, pretentious religion has been the avant-coureur of their destruction. In their inception and early progress this curse exercises but slight influence, and their growth is consequently healthy and vigorous. All nations have concealed this cancerous ulcer, sooner or later to develop for their destruction. These wear out with those they destroy, and a new or reformed religion is almost always accompanied with new and vigorous developments in a new and progressive Government. The shackles which have paralyzed the mind, forbidding its development, are broken; the unnatural superstition ceases to circumscribe and influence its operations; and thus emancipated, it recovers its elasticity and springs forward toward the perfection of the Creator. Rescued from these baleful influences, the new organization is vigorous and rapid in its growth, yielding the beneficent blessings natural to the healthful and unabused energies of the mind. But with maturity and age the webs of superstition begin to fasten on the mind; priests become prominent, and as is their wont, the moment they shackle the mind, they reach out for power, and the chained disciple of their superstition willingly yields, under the vain delusion that he shares and participates in this power as a holy office for the propagation of his creed—and retrogression commences.
The effects of African slavery in the United States, upon the condition of both races, was eminently beneficial to both. In no condition, and under no other circumstances, had the African made such advances toward civilization: indeed, I doubt if he has not attained in this particular to the highest point susceptible to his nature. He has increased more rapidly, and his aspirations have become more elevated, and his happiness more augmented. With his labor directed by the intelligence of the white race, the prosperity of the world has increased in a ratio superior to any antecedent period. The production of those staples which form the principal bases of commerce has increased in a quadruple ratio. Cotton alone increased so rapidly as to render its price so far below every other article which can be fashioned into cloth, that the clothing and sheeting of the civilized world was principally fabricated from it. The rapidity of its increased production was only equalled by the increase of wealth and comfort throughout the world. It regulates the exchanges almost universally. It gave, in its growth, transportation, and manufacture, employment to millions, feeding and clothing half of Europe—increasing beyond example commercial tonnage, and stimulating the invention of labor-saving machinery—giving a healthy impulse to labor and enterprise in every avocation, and intertwining itself with every interest, throughout the broad expanse of civilization over the earth. To cotton, more than to any other one thing, is due the railroad, steamboat, and steamship, the increase of commerce, the rapid accumulation of fortunes, and consequently the diffusion of intelligence, learning, and civilization.
Sugar, too, from the same cause, ceased to be a luxury, and became a necessity in the economy of living: coffee, too, became a stimulating beverage at every meal, instead of a luxury only to be indulged on rare occasions. How much the increased production of these three articles added to the commerce and wealth of the world during the last two centuries, and especially the last, is beyond computation. How much of human comfort and human happiness is now dependent upon their continued production, and in such abundance as to make them accessible to the means of all, may well employ the earnest attention of those who feel for the interest and happiness of their kind most. If these results have followed the institution of African slavery, can it be inhuman and sinful? Is it not rather an evidence that the Creator so designed?
But this is not all this institution has effected. Besides its pecuniary results, it has inspired in the superior race a nobility of feeling, resulting from a habit of command and a sense of independence, which is peculiar to privileged orders of men in civilized society. This feeling is manifested in high bearing and sensitive honor, a refinement of sentiment and chivalrous emprise unknown to communities without caste. This is to be seen in the absence of everything little or mean. A noble hospitality, a scorn of bargaining, and a lofty yet eminently deferential deportment toward females: in this mould it has cast Southern society, and these traits made the Southern gentleman remarkable, wherever his presence was found.
These were the men who led in the formation of the Government of the United States, and who gave tone and character to her legislative assembly, so long as they held control of the Government. A peer among these was James Jackson, and many of his confederates, of whom I shall have occasion to speak in the progress of this work.
BALDWIN—A YANKEE'S POLITICAL STABILITY—THE YAZOO QUESTION—PARTY FEUDS AND FIGHTS—DEAF AND DUMB MINISTERS—CLAY—JACKSON—BUCHANAN— CALHOUN—COTTON AND FREE-TRADE—THE CLAY AND RANDOLPH DUEL.
Among the early immigrants into Georgia were Abraham Baldwin and William H. Crawford. Baldwin was from Connecticut, Crawford from Virginia. Baldwin was a man of liberal education, and was destined for the ministry; indeed, he had taken orders, and was an officiating clergyman for some time in his native state. His family was English, and has given many distinguished men to the nation. After he arrived in Georgia, where he came to engage in his vocation, he very soon ascertained his profession was not one which in a new country promised much profit or distinction; and possessing in an eminent degree that Yankee "cuteness" which is quick to discover what is to the interest of its possessor, he abandoned the pulpit for the forum, and after a brief probation in a law office at nights and a school-house by day, he opened an office, and commenced the practice of law in Augusta. He had been educated a Federalist in politics, and had not concealed his sentiments in his new home.
Mr. Jefferson and his political principles were extremely popular in Georgia, and though there were some distinguished Federalists in Augusta who were leaders in her society, their number in the State was too insignificant to hold out any prospect of preferment to a young, talented, and ambitious aspirant for political distinction. Baldwin was not slow to discover this, and, with the facile nature of his race, abandoned his political creed, as he had his professional pursuits. He saw Crawford was rising into public notice, and he knew his ability, and with characteristic impudence he thrust himself forward, and very soon was made a member of Congress. Here he was true to his last love, and became a leading member of the Republican party. By his conduct in this matter he made himself odious to his New England friends, who were unsparing of their abuse because of his treachery.
For this he cared very little; but bore well in mind that "the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church," and that the hate of the Federalists was the passport to Republican favor. His zeal was that of the new convert, and it won for him the confidence of his party, and rapid preferment in the line of distinction. He was a man of decided abilities, and seemed destined to high distinction; but dying early, a member of the United States Senate, his hopes and aspirations here terminated. The State has honored and perpetuated his name by giving it to the county wherein is situated her seat of government.
Crawford, like Baldwin, taught, and studied law at the same time. He was usher in a school taught by his life-long friend, Judge Yates. When admitted to practise law, he located in the little village of Lexington, in the County of Oglethorpe, and very soon was not only the leading lawyer, but the leading man of all the up-country of Georgia.
Eminence is always envied: this was conspicuously the fortune of Crawford. The population of the State was increasing rapidly, and young aspirants for fame and fortune were crowding to where these were promised most speedily.
The Yazoo question had created deep animosities. General Elijah Clarke, and his son John, subsequently governor of the State, were charged with complicity in this great fraud. The father had distinguished himself in repelling the Indians in their various forays upon the frontiers, and was a representative man. With strong will and distinguished courage, he, without much talent, was conspicuous among a people who were, like himself, rude, unlettered, but daring, and abounding in strong common-sense.
There was a young man at the same time, a devoted friend of young Clarke, and follower of his father: he was an emigrant from one of the Middle States. Violent in his character, and incautious in the use of language, he very soon became offensive to his opponents, and sought every opportunity to increase the bad feeling with which he was regarded. Siding with the Yazoo Company, he soon made himself odious to their enemies. The parties of Republicans and Federalists were bitter toward each other, and feuds were leading to fights, and some of these of most deadly character. The conflicts with the Indians had kept alive the warlike spirit which the partisan warfare of the Revolution had cultivated at the South, and no virtue was so especially regarded by these people as that of personal courage. The consequence was that no man, whatever his deportment or qualifications, could long fill the public eye without distinguishing himself for the possession of personal bravery.
The Clarkes were the undisputed leaders of public opinion in the up-country, until Crawford came, and, by his great abilities and remarkable frankness of manner, won away to his support, and to the support of his opinions, a large majority of the people. This was not to be borne; and young Van Allen was willingly thrust forward to test the courage of Crawford. Duelling was the honorable method of settling all difficulties between gentlemen, and Crawford was to be forced into a duel. If he refused to fight, he was ruined. This, however, he did not do; and Van Allen was slain in the affair.
This but whetted the rage of the Clarkes, and John Clarke was not long in finding an excuse to call to the field his hated foe. In this duel Crawford was shot through the left wrist, which partially disabled that arm for life. But this did not heal the animosity; its rancor became contagious, and involved the people of the State almost to a man; nor did it end until both Clarke and Crawford were in the grave.
The history and consequences of this feud, and the two factions which grew out of it, would be the history of Georgia for more than forty years. Each had an army of followers; and all the talent of the State was divided between and leading these factions. There were many young men of decided talent rising into distinction in the professions, who were of necessity absorbed by these factions, and whose whole subsequent career was tainted with the ignoble prejudices arising out of this association. Among the most prominent and talented of these was John Forsyth, Peter Early, George M. Troup, the man sans peur, sans reproche, Thomas W. Cobb, Stephen Upson, Duncan G. Campbell, the brother-in-law of Clarke, and personally and politically his friend, and who, from the purity of his character and elevated bearing, was respected, trusted, and beloved by all who knew him; Freeman Walker, John M. Dooly, Augustus Clayton, Stephen W. Harris, and Eli S. Sherter, perhaps mentally equal to any son of Georgia.
With the exception of Upson and Troup, these were all natives of the State. Upson was from Connecticut, and was the son of a button-maker at Watertown, in that State. He was a thorough Yankee in all the qualities of perseverance, making and saving money. He was a pure man, stern and talented; and as a lawyer, was scarcely equalled in the State. He and Cobb were students, and proteges of Crawford, and both signalized their whole lives by a devotion, amounting almost to fanaticism, to Mr. Crawford and his fortunes.
George Michael Troup was born at McIntosh's Bluff, on the Tombigbee River, in the State of Alabama. His father was an Englishman, who, during the Revolution, removed to the place since called McIntosh's Bluff. Mr. Crawford soon became prominent as a politician, and adopting the party and principles of Jefferson, was transferred in early life to the councils of the nation. In the United States Senate he was the compeer of Felix Grundy, John C. Calhoun, Harrison Gray Otis, Rufus King, Daniel D. Tompkins, William B. Giles, Henry Clay, and many others of less distinction; and was the especial friend of those remarkable men, Nathaniel Macon and John Randolph.
At this period, there was an array of talent in Congress never equalled before or since. The aggressions of English cruisers upon our commerce, and the impressing of our seamen into the English service, had aroused the whole nation, and especially the South; and the fiery talent of this section was called by the people, breathing war, into the national councils.
Crawford was in the Senate from Georgia, and was a war-man. John Forsyth, John C. Calhoun, David R. Williams, George M. Troup, John Randolph, Philip Doddridge, James Barbour, Henry Clay, and William Lomax from South Carolina, were all comparatively young men.
Lowndes, Calhoun, Clay, and Troup were little more than thirty years of age, and yet they became prominent leaders of their party, exercising a controlling influence over the public mind, and shaping the policy of the Government. Crawford was the Mentor of this ardent band of lofty spirits—stimulating and checking, as occasion might require, the energies and actions of his young compeers. So conspicuous was he for talent, wisdom, and statesmanship, that he was proposed by the Republican party as a proper person to succeed Mr. Madison; and nothing prevented his receiving the nomination of that party but his refusal to oppose Mr. Monroe. His magnanimity was his misfortune. Had he been nominated, he would have been elected without opposition. The golden opportunity returned no more. He had succeeded Chancellor Livingston as minister to France, and of these two, Napoleon said "the United States had sent him two plenipotentiaries—the first was deaf, the latter dumb." Livingston was quite deaf, and Crawford could not speak French. At the court of Versailles, he served faithfully and efficiently the interests of his country, and returned with increased popularity. He filled, under Mr. Monroe, the office of Secretary of War for a short time, and then was transferred to the Secretaryship of the Treasury.
In the Cabinet of Mr. Monroe there were three aspirants for the Presidency: Adams, Crawford, and Calhoun. Between Crawford and Calhoun a feud arose, which was mainly the cause of Mr. Calhoun's name being withdrawn as a candidate, and the substitution of that of General Jackson. Crawford was one of the three highest returned to the House, and from whom a choice was to be made.
Some twelve months anterior to the election he was stricken with paralysis; and both body and mind so much affected that his friends felt that it would be improper to elect him. Nevertheless he continued a candidate until Mr. Adams was chosen.
Mr. Clay had been voted for as a fourth candidate, but not receiving electoral votes enough, failed to be returned to the House. Being at the time a member of the House of Representatives, it was supposed he held the control of the Western vote; and consequently the power to elect whom he pleased. Mr. Clay was a great admirer of Mr. Crawford, though their intimacy had been somewhat interrupted by a personal difficulty between Mr. Randolph and Mr. Clay. Mr. Randolph being an especial friend and constant visitor at Mr. Crawford's, it would have been unpleasant to both parties to meet at his house.
Only a few years anterior to Mr. Clay's death, and when he was visiting New Orleans, the writer had frequent interviews with him, and learned that he preferred Mr. Crawford to either Adams or Jackson; and was only prevented voting for him by the prostration and hopeless condition of his health.
The political friends of Mr. Clay from the West knew of this preference, and would have acted with him, only upon condition that Mr. Crawford should make him a member of his Cabinet. This was communicated to Mr. Clay, who assigned his reasons for declining to vote for Mr. Crawford, and avowed his intention of giving his vote for Mr. Adams. Upon this announcement, it was urged upon Mr. Clay that Mr. Adams was uncommitted upon the policy which he had inaugurated as the American System; that he stood pledged to the country for its success; and that, without some pledge from Mr. Adams upon this point, he would be hazarding too much to give him his support—for this would certainly make him President. Mr. Clay's reply was:
"I shall, as a matter of necessity, give my vote for Mr. Adams: Mr. Crawford's health puts him out of the question, and we are compelled to choose between Adams and Jackson. My opinion with regard to General Jackson is before the nation, it remains unaltered. I can never give a vote for any man for so responsible a position whose only claim is military fame. Jackson's violent temper and unscrupulous character, independent of his want of experience in statesmanship, would prevent my voting for him. I shall exact no pledge from Mr. Adams, but shall vote for him, and hold myself at liberty to support or oppose his administration, as it shall meet my approval or disapproval."
Mr. Adams was elected; and the friends of Mr. Clay insisted that he should accept the position of Secretary of State in the new Cabinet, which was tendered him by Mr. Adams. Mr. Clay thought it indelicate to do so. Whether true or not, the nation awarded to him the making of Mr. Adams President.
General Jackson had received a larger vote in the electoral colleges than Adams, and his friends urged this as a reason that he was more acceptable to the nation, and the voting for Adams on the part of Clay and his friends was a palpable disregard of the popular will; and that Clay had violated all his antecedents, and had thus deserted the principles of the Republican party.
The friends of Mr. Crawford were silent until the organization of the new Cabinet. There had been a breach of amicable relations between Crawford and Jackson for some years, and of consequence between their party friends; and it was supposed from this cause that Mr. Crawford would unite in the support of the Administration; and when it was known that Clay had accepted the premiership, this was deemed certain, from the friendship long existing between Clay and himself. The terrible paralysis which had prostrated Mr. Crawford extended to his mind, and he had ceased to hold the influence with his friends as controller, and had become the instrument in their hands.
General Jackson received a hint that it would be well to have healed the breach between himself and Crawford. This it was supposed came from Forsyth, and it is further believed this was prompted by Van Buren. It may or may not have been so: Mr. Jackson's acuteness rarely required hints from any one to stimulate or prompt to action its suggestions. All Washington City was astounded, one Sunday morning, at seeing the carriage of Jackson pull up at the residence of Mr. Crawford; for their quarrel was known to every one, and it was heralded through the newspapers that a reconciliation had taken place between these great men. The interview was a protracted one: what occurred can only be known by subsequent developments in the political world.
Van Buren had supported Crawford to the last extremity, and was greatly respected by him. His intense acuteness scented the prey afar off. Mr. Calhoun had been elected by the electoral colleges Vice-President, and this position, it was thought, notwithstanding his devotion to Jackson, would identify him with the Administration. He was young, talented, extremely popular, ambitious, and aspiring, and it was the opinion of all that he would urge his claims to the succession.
The indignation which burst from the Southern and Middle States, and from many of the Western, at Mr. Clay's course, and the great unpopularity of the name of Adams, was an assurance that without great changes in public opinion Mr. Adams' administration would be confined to one term. Mr. Crawford was out of the question for all time, and it was apparent the contest was to be between Calhoun, Clay, and Jackson.
They had all belonged to the Jeffersonian school of politics—had grown upon the nation's confidence rapidly through their support of and conducting the war to its glorious termination. But this party was now completely disrupted; and from its elements new parties were to be formed. It only survived the dissolution of the Federal party a short time, and, for the want of opposition from without, discord and dissolution had followed. The political world was completely chaotic—new interests had arisen. The war had forced New England to manufacturing; it had established the policy of home production, and home protection; the agricultural interest of the West was connected with the manufacturing interest of the North, and was to be her consumer; but the planting interest of the South was deemed antagonistic to them. Her great staple, forming almost the sole basis of the foreign commerce of the country, demanded, if not free trade, an exceedingly liberal policy toward those abroad who were her purchasers.
The war had given a new impetus to trade, new channels had been opened, the manufacture of cotton in England had become a source of wealth to the nation, and was rapidly increasing. America was her source of supply, and was the great consumer of her fabrics, and this fact was stimulating the growth of cotton into an activity which indicated its becoming the leading interest of the South, if not of the nation. The course of trade made it the great competitor of home manufactures: this would seem unnatural, but it was true—the one demanding protection, the other free trade. The source of supply of the raw material to both was the same, and America the great consumer for both. Protection secured the home market to the home manufacturer, compelling the consumer to pay more, and sell for less, by excluding the foreign manufacturer from the market, or imposing such burdens, by way of duties, as to compel him to sell at higher prices than would be a just profit on his labor and skill under the operation of free trade, and which should exempt from his competition the home manufacturer in the American market.
All these facts were within the purview of the sagacious politicians of the day; and were evidently the elements of new parties. Mr. Clay had already given shape to his future policy, and had identified the new Administration with it. It was certain the South with great unanimity would be in opposition, and the sagacity of Van Buren discovered the necessity of uniting the friends of Jackson and Crawford. Should he, after feeling the political pulse of his own people, conclude to unite with the opposition, such a union would destroy Mr. Clay in the South, but might greatly strengthen Mr. Calhoun; his destruction, however, must be left to the future. He was not long in determining. The reconciliation of Crawford and-Jackson made the union of their friends no very difficult matter. Mr. Randolph, Mr. Macon, Mr. Forsyth, and Mr. Cobb had expressed themselves greatly gratified at this restoration of amity; and at an informal meeting of their friends, Randolph said, in allusion to this adjustment:
"I have no longer a fear that the seat first graced by Virginia's chosen sons will ever be disgraced by a renegade child of hers."
Soon after the inauguration of Mr. Adams, and the adjournment of Congress, the nation was startled with the charge of corruption in the election of Mr. Adams. At first this was vague rumor. Mr. Clay was charged by the press throughout the country with bargaining with the friends of Adams, to cast his vote, and carry his influence to his support, upon the condition of his (Clay's) appointment to the premiership in the Administration, should Adams be elected.
There was no responsible name for this charge; but at the ensuing session of Congress, a member from Pennsylvania, George Creemer, uttered from his seat the charge in direct terms. This seemed to give assurance of the truth of this damaging accusation. There was no public denial from Mr. Clay. The press in his support had from the first treated the story as too ridiculous to be noticed other than by a flat denial; but the circumstances were sufficiently plausible to predicate such a slander, and the effect upon Mr. Clay was beginning to be felt seriously by his friends. In the mean time, rumors reached the popular ear that the proofs of its veracity were in the hands of General Jackson, whose popularity was running through the country with the warmth and rapidity of a fire upon the prairies.
There was now a responsible sponsor, and Mr. Clay at once addressed a note to Creemer, demanding his authority for the charge. This was answered, and General Jackson's was the name given, as his authority. Mr. Clay sent his friend, General Leslie Combs, with a note to Jackson, with a copy of Creemer's communication. Combs was a weak, vain man, and so full of the importance of his mission that he made no secret of his object in visiting Jackson at the Hermitage; and it was soon running through the country in the party press, each retailing the story as he had heard it, or as his imagination and party bias desired it. It was soon current that Mr. Clay had challenged General Jackson, and a duel was soon to occur between these distinguished men. General Jackson, however, gave as his author, James Buchanan, of Pennsylvania. In turn, Mr. Buchanan was called upon by Clay, but he denied ever having made any such communication to General Jackson; at the same time, making certain statements under the seal of secrecy to Mr. Letcher, Clay's friend. What these revelations were will never be known: death has set his seal on all who knew them; and no revelation disclosed them in time. Long after this interview between Letcher and Buchanan, the former called on the latter, and asked to be relieved from this imputation, and for permission to give to the public these statements; but Mr. Buchanan peremptorily refused. Mr. Letcher insisted that they were important to the reputation of more than Mr. Clay: still Buchanan refused; and to this day the question of veracity remains unsettled between Jackson and Buchanan. The public have, however, long since declared that General Jackson was too brave a man to lie.
Toward the close of Mr. Clay's life, one Carter Beverly, of Virginia, wrote Mr. Clay some account of the part he himself had taken in the concoction of this slander, craving his forgiveness. This letter was received by Mr. Clay while a visitor at the home of the writer, and read to him: it dissipated all doubts upon the mind of Mr. Clay, if any remained, of the fact of the whole story being the concoction of Buchanan. Creemer was a colleague of Buchanan, and was a credulous Pennsylvanian, of Dutch descent; honest enough, but without brains, and only too willing to be the instrument of his colleague in any dirty work which would subserve his purposes.
Beverly was one of those silly but presumptuous personages who thrust themselves upon the society of men occupying high positions, and feel their importance only in that reflected by this association; and ever too fond of being made the medium of slanderous reports, reflecting upon those whose self-respect and superior dignity has frowned them from their presence. Creemer died without divulging anything; probably under the influence of Buchanan, and it is not improbable he was in ignorance of the origin of the slander. Beverly knew of its utter falsity, and was as guilty as the originator, and his conscience smote him too sorely to permit him to go to the grave without atonement, and consequently he made a clean breast of it to Mr. Clay.
Mr. Clay and Mr. Buchanan entered public life about the same time, when they were both young and full of zeal. They belonged to the same political party, and became warmly attached. They were, however, men of very different temperaments. The professions of Mr. Clay were always sincere, his love of truth was a most prominent feature in his nature, and his attachments were never dissimulations: to no other person of his early political friends was he more sincerely attached than to Buchanan—he was his confidential friend; he was never on any subject reserved to him; and so deep was this feeling with him that he had called a son after his friend—the late James Buchanan Clay. When he learned that all his confidences had been misplaced, and that the man whom he so loved had sought to rob him of his good name, he was wounded to the heart. He struggled to believe Buchanan was wronged by General Jackson; but one fact after another was developed—he could not doubt—all pointing the same way; and finally came this letter of Beverly's, when he was old, and when his heart was crushed by the loss of his son Henry at Buena Vista, of which event he had only heard the day before: he doubted no more. I shall ever remember the expression of that noble countenance as, turning to me, he said: "Read that!" Rising from his seat, he went to the garden, where, under a large live-oak, I found him an hour after, deeply depressed. It was sorrow, not anger, that weighed upon him. In reply to a remark from me, he said:
"How few men have I found true under all trials! Who has a friend on whom he can rely, and who will not, to gratify his own ambition, sacrifice him? I was deeply attached to Buchanan; I thought him my friend, and trusted him as such—through long years our intimacy continued. You see how unwisely this attachment was indulged; I have misplaced my confidence; I am willing to disbelieve this statement of Beverly; he is known to you; I believe he is a miserable creature, but his testimony is but a link in the chain of evidences I have of Buchanan's being the author of this infamous story. It was artfully concocted and maliciously circulated. He was too shrewd to commit himself, and employed this creature to go to Jackson, who lent a willing ear to it; and he communicated it to Creemer. Yet it was settled upon him by Jackson. Beverly told Jackson he was sent by Buchanan, and now the world has the story denied by Buchanan, and I have it confessed by Beverly. All the mischief it could do, it has done; and this death-bed repentance and confession must command my forgiveness of poor old Beverly.