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Many of our public men are capital amateur editors. Thomas H. Benton was a valuable and vigorous contributor to The Globe in the war upon the United States Bank. His style was trenchant and elevated, and his facts generally impregnable. James Buchanan was a frequent writer in my old paper, The Lancaster Intelligencer & Fournal, and in The Pennsylvanian. His diction
, was cold and unsympathetic, but exact, clear, and condensed. His precise and elegant chirography was the delight of the compositors. Judge Douglas wrote little, but suggested much. His mind teemed with “points.” I never spent an hour with him which did not furnish me with new ideas. He grasped and understood most questions thoroughly. When he read was always a mystery. Social to a degree, dining out almost daily when not entertaining his friends at his own hospitable home, visiting strangers at their hotels, leading in debate or counseling in committee, he was rarely at fault for a date or a fact. He was a treasure to an editor, because he possessed the rare faculty of throwing new light upon every subject in the shortest possible time. Ex-Attorney-General J. S. Black would have made a superb journalist, and was a ready and useful contributor.
His style was terse, fresh, and scholarly. Caleb Cushing is another statesman who once delighted in editorial writing, and still occasionally varies his heavy professional toil by the same agreeable relaxation. I have known him to stand up to his tall desk and dash off column after column on foreign and domestic politics, on art, on finance, with astonishing rapidity and ease. Unlike his aggressive successor, General Cushing is anxious to end his career at peace with all the world. It is said that he is now receiving more money for legal services than any man in his profession. Of course his labors are heavy, but he lightens them by his calm and cheer
ful philosophy, his cultivated literary tastes, and his love of the society of the tolerant and refined.
Writing of Thomas H. Benton recalls an incident that happened during the Presidency of James K. Polk, when Mr. Buchanan was Secretary of State. Colonel Benton was a sharp thorn in the side of the Administration on the Oregon question. His criticism was merciless, and stung the President and his premier to the quick. Accordingly The Pennsylvanian was called upon to review his positions, which was done in three articles that bore, he thought, distinct official ear-marks. Indignant at my temerity, he addressed me a curt note, demanding the name of the author of the articles and threatening a Senatorial investigation. I responded by assuming the whole responsibility, and took the train for Washington to anticipate and watch events. I quartered, as usual, with Mr. Buchanan, and there waited for the summons. None came, however. Just before returning to my post in Philadelphia I was invited to a reception at the British Minister's, and in one of the currents of the throng was carried into a corner where they were serving out the seductive compound known as Roman punch. I had hardly got a glass of it in my hand when I found myself in the presence of Colonel Benton. He greeted me kindly, and as we enjoyed our punch he quietly remarked, "I got your letter, but I did not proceed because I know you assumed the responsibility that belonged to another.” It is needless to add that the Secretary of State was as much relieved as I was by the majestical Missouri Senator.
Although Buchanan and Benton never were intimate friends, the latter went to Cincinnati in 1856 to advocate Buchanan as the Democratic candidate for President, and supported him when nominated against his own son-in-law, General John C. Fremont. Nobody was more surprised than Buchanan himself. He knew that Benton disliked him as sincerely as he esteemed General Fremont. But the matter was easily explained. The
DAVID C. BRODERICK.
Missouri statesman believed that the Pennsylvanian candidate would, if elected, be true to the great work of justice to Kansas; that he would check the design of forcing slavery into that Territory; and that he would tranquilize the country by arresting the sectional tendencies of the times. He lived, like hundreds of thousands of others, to realize his mistake; but he passed off before the war that resulted from the absence of a little courage to maintain the most solemn pledge ever made to a confiding people. Thomas Hart Benton died the both of April, 1858.
[February 4, 1871.]
DAVID C. BRODERICK, of California, was in some respects a remarkable character. Born in the District of Columbia in 1818, and killed in a duel in September of 1859, his short career was a succession of strange events. Twenty-five years of it were spent in New York in the rudest scenes, and more than ten among the turbulent men who then, as now, dominated over that great city. Of these he became the early and imperious leader—a leader blindly followed and blindly obeyed. But he never fell into their habits of dissipation, and perhaps his unbroken command over them resulted from his silent and sober nature. The foreman of a fire-company and the keeper of a saloon, he never lost his dignity, but would retire to his books whenever he had a moment of leisure. Removing to California in 1849, he quickly secured the confidence of the people, and was elected by them to high and honorable positions. He was a useful member of the convention that adopted the first California constitution, and was two years in the State Senate, and president of that body. In 1856 he was elected a Senator
in Congress for six years from the 4th of March, 1857. I had seen him but once before, in 1848, when Mr. Edwin Croswell, the well-known editor of the Albany Argus, who is still living in New York, greatly esteemed for his amiability and learning, visited my office in his company; but when I met him a second time in Philadelphia, after his triumph and that of Mr. Buchanan, to whose Presidential aspirations he had given such effective aid, I felt as if I had known him intimately from boyhood. We were nearly the same age, and had supported Mr. Buchanan from the same motive—that of settling the slavery question, at least for the time, by even-handed justice to the people of Kansas. California had been a secession rendezvous from the day it became a part of the Union, but the Southern leaders there soon found in Broderick a stubborn and a dangerous enemy. His rough New York schooling had made him especially abhorrent of obedience to such tyrants, and so he grappled with them promptly. In a little more than six years he mounted over their heads into the most important offices, and when he elected himself to the United States Senate he also magnanimously elected his adversary, Dr. W. M. Gwin, for the short term. But he was not long in Washington before he realized that the new President was his foe, and that the solemn pledge of justice to Kansas was not to be maintained. The national patronage on the Pacific slope was concentrated in the hands of his colleague, and the young Senator began his career by finding his friends stripped of the power they had fairly won.
The disappointment was grievous, but it called out all his better nature. He devoted himself to his studies and his duties with renewed assiduity. He always lived like a gentleman. Generous to a fault, he delighted to have his friends around him. His bearing, his dress, his language, indicated none of the hard experience of his youth. He was fond of books, and was a rare judge of men. I have his picture before me as I
write, and as I look into his dark eyes and watch his firm-set mouth I almost see the flash of the one and hear the good sense that often came from the other.
There were not many of us in the Democratic ranks to stand up for fair play to Kansas. We started with a goodly array, but the offices of the Executive were too much for most of our associates, and when the final struggle came we were a corporal's guard indeed. Broderick was the soul of our little party. I understood how he managed men in New York and California as I watched his intercourse with Senators and Representatives in that trying crisis. Some he would persuade, others he would denounce. He seemed to know the especial weakness to address; but nothing was more potent than his appeal to the constituency of the hesitating member. "I tell you," he used to say to such as doubted, "you can make more reputation by being an honest man instead of a rascal.”
Broderick was one of the few “self-made" men who did not boast of having been a mechanic. He was not like a famous ex-President who delighted to speak of his rise from the tailor's bench. He did not think a man any worse for having worked for his living at a trade, nor did he believe him any better. And this theory sprang from the belief that the laboring men of America are seldom true to the bright minds so often reared among them. His memorable words in reply to the haughty Hammond of South Carolina, on the 22d of March, 1858, after the latter had spoken of the producing class of the North as the "mudsills" of society, illustrate this theory. Mr. Broderick said:
“I, sir, am glad that the Senator has spoken thus. have the effect of arousing in the working men that spirit that has been lying dormant for centuries. It may also have the effect of arousing the two hundred thousand men with pure skins in South Carolina, who are now degraded and despised by thirty thousand aristocratic slaveholders. It may teach them to demand what is the power--