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NATIONAL CONVENTIONS.

323

women reading in the quiet alcoves — I find other and even better manners. Cars traversing streets as clean as those of Paris in her best days, and carrying both races without protest, even from the delicate ex-rebel ladies who are coming back to us on their silken wings, ready to sell guns or carry claims, as opportunity offers; the same schools for the education of black and white; colleges for the education of the freedmen; a great savings bank, in which the millions of former slaves are hoarded and increased; and, above all, a free press, that prints words and distributes thoughts which three years ago would have raised a mob and swung the writer to the lamp-post in front of his burning dwelling. And this social, political, and intellectual revolution is vindicated by results, which, like the glorious works of nature, give joy to all and real sorrow to none. The flowers and verdure of early spring, that bloom and grow all around us, are not more truly the proofs of the providence of God than all these changed manners at the nation's capital.

[April 28, 1872.]

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LXIX.

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A NATIONAL Convention of delegates representing one of the great political parties of a Republic like ours, called to nominate a candidate for President, is always interesting. No other country presents such a spectacle. The best ability is assembled. The sages and statesmen and the young men of the party take part in the deliberations, which are frequently interrupted by high excitement, and made historical by electrical displays of oratory. The vindication by Judge Holt, of Kentucky, of the character of Richard M. Johnson in the National Convention at Baltimore, thirty-six years ago, was a magnificent burst of eloquence. I read it in Greeley's New-Yorker, of that day,

which spoke of it as a gem of finished rhetoric. The whitehaired statesman who rides along Pennsylvania Avenue every morning, on his way to the office of the Judge Advocate-General, is the same Joseph Holt whose youthful appearance and splendid argument thrilled the people in 1836. W.L. Yancey, of Alabama, was another of the bright lights of the Democratic National Convention, and was a captivating speaker, and, like most of the school of extreme Southerners, exceedingly courteous and refined. Never shall I forget the debate between Benjamin F. Butler, Mr. Van Buren's ex-Attorney-General, and Robert J. Walker, Senator in Congress from Mississippi, in the convention of 1844, on the two-thirds rule. Van Buren, defeated in 1840 by Harrison, was again a candidate for the nomination, but he had faltered on the annexation of Texas, and, though he had a clear majority of the delegates, the adoption of the twothirds rule ruined his prospects. Butler was no match for the keen little Senatorial Saladin; and when he rose to reply the House had already been conquered by the logic of his adversary. That convention was James Buchanan's first appearance as an aspirant for President, and had he remained in the field he would assuredly have been the candidate against Mr. Clay. Polk was an accidental selection, and was never dreamed of till the conflict made a compromise necessary. In 1848 Van Buren's men took ample revenge by running him as a volunteer candidate for President, and so defeating Cass and electing Taylor. Buchanan's adherents were on the ground, but he had contrived to lose the friendship of many of the leading men of Pennsylvania, and was coldly jostled off the track. In that convention Preston King was the Van Buren leader, backed by David Wilmot, and when New York seceded the doom of the party was sounded. Daniel S. Dickinson headed the New York Hunkers, and took strong ground against the Little Magician, as Van Buren was called. King was cool, calm, and resolved, Dickinson witty and sarcastic, Wilmot aggressive and defiant.

PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES.

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In 1852 Mr. Buchanan was again presented and defeated, Frank Pierce, another Accident, winning the prize. That year sounded the death-knell of the old Whig party. Rufus Choate was present in the Whig National Convention as the champion of Daniel Webster, and made a speech of marvelous force and beauty in his support, but in vain. The politicians wanted an Availability, and got him in General Scott, who was overthrown in November by the Democrats. On the fourth trial, in 1856, Mr. Buchanan was successful at Cincinnati, because of his supposed identity with the sentiment in favor of making Kansas a free State. That event lost Judge Douglas his chance. He was taken to Charleston, S.C., in 1860, and there defrauded, in advance of his more deliberate slaughter at the adjourned convention in Baltimore. Young Breckinridge was the candidate of the extremists of that year, a curious sequel in a life which opened in 1851 in Congress in avowed sympathy with the antislavery idea.

Henry A. Wise, in his late work on John Tyler, reveals a picture of the disappointed ambition of Henry Clay, when in 1840 he failed of the Whig nomination, and when he could easily have defeated Van Buren. Alas! his fate had been the fate of many. Crawford, Calhoun, Cass, Douglas, all felt the same sharp sting before they were called away, and even some of those who won the golden bauble lived to find it a barren sceptre. A candidate for President soon realizes the value of political fealty, and I have often thought that in the nervous struggle for that high honor even the best man loses faith in others, and forgets his own obligations in his distrust of his supporters. The vast patronage of the office, and the vexations and heart-burnings of those who seek place, open a wide avenue to intrigue and deception. And yet, as a general thing, the conventions of the past have not been disgraced by corruption. Douglas was undoubtedly juggled in 1860, but there was no direct use of money. He was simply overborne by the South. Lincoln was fairly chosen by the Republicans that year, but not until Mr. Seward had come to grief by having been compelled to drink of the bitter cup drained before by Cass, Webster, and Clay.

As population increases and the Government grows more and more imperial, these quadrennial National Conventions become intensely important. It is no longer a question that they are the best methods for choosing Presidential candidates, and the fierce struggle for the control of the Government is itself one of the strong points in our system. That which adjourned in Cincinnati on Friday was more like a great town meeting than a National Convention ; but its work will be felt far and near. Among the characters most talked about in that body is Colonel A. K. McClure, of Pennsylvania. He is in the prime of life, about forty-three, of herculean frame, at least six feet two, winning address, and great powers of endurance. His career has been full of incident. Beginning life poor, as a country printer, he afterward studied law, and soon became a Whig leader. He is a consummate newspaper writer, and a fine speaker. Bold, dashing, resolute, and full of resources, he is a valuable friend and a dangerous foe. Among all the diversified elements of the Cincinnati gathering there was no one man, not even Carl Schurz, who has a better knowledge of public men and manners than McClure. I say all this the more freely because I think he has committed an irreparable mistake in opposing President Grant's re-election; but as he owns himself, I presume he best knows what he is about.

[May 5, 1872.]

PRESIDENTIAL LITERATURE.

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LXX.

A PRESIDENTIAL election always has its comic side, and if some of our book-makers would study the newspapers of the time, a mass of genuine wit and humor could be collected. The songs of the period, the jokes, the travesties, the satire, would fill volumes. Franklin would have made a splendid campaigner, with his keen sarcasm and his homely phrases, but he died before the close of Washington's first term (April, 1790), and before he could realize the passions and prejudices that afterward entered into these quadrennial struggles. The libels of Freneau, the fierce invectives of Cobbett, the short paragraphs of John Binns, all of them first appearing in Philadelphia, would interest the country if they could be reproduced to-day. George Dennison Prentice was, however, the prince of this style of writing. Beginning as the editor of the Louisville Journal, in 1831, he soon became a host in the opposition to Jackson, Van Buren, Polk, and other Democratic Presidents, and his epigrams, bright and sharp, often bordering on the severest personality, were far more effective than the heavy columns of his editorial foes, Duff Green, Shad Penn, Francis P. Blair, and Thomas Ritchie. And yet, while he could sting like a hornet, he could sing like a nightingale. It is not often that one who distilled such venom into his paragraphs, could exhale so much sweet fragrance from his poems. We had a rougher wit in William B. Conway, the editor of a little Democratic paper called The Mountaineer, printed in Cambria County, Pennsylvania, who threw off some of the finest party songs and repartees of his time.

To Mr. Greeley, however, must be assigned the post of honor in making this sort of literature an effective weapon in Presidential elections. He started The Log Cabin, in 1840, to aid in the election of Harrison and Tyler, and threw such force and

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