Page images
PDF
EPUB

6

would not be fifty thousand left after their counting.” Henry Clay asked him to visit the Senate Chamber and throw his voice among his Democratic friends, so that they might vote for the measures they had opposed, and added, “ It would cause a glorious excitement among the Democracy.” He met John Quincy Adams in Canada, and was much impressed by his conversation. In his tour to the West Indies he had a fine field in the superstitions of the people. They regarded him as something more than mortal, and called on him to work impossibilities. The sick, the lame, the blind, the unfortunate, hailed him as the good physician. He told them he was no dealer in miracles, no spiritualist, no astrologer, nothing but an artist traveling to make a living for himself by giving innocent pleasure to others, and at the same time to show by his own progress the progress of science. Yet, with these qualities, he did what many an ancient necromancer would have failed in. He reconciled hostile parents to the marriage of faithful lovers; frightened the drunkard into temperance; infused courage into a ship's crew during a storm at sea, and once compelled the restoration of her fortune to a poor girl by making the portrait of the dead brother of the dishonest guardian speak in stern rebuke of his guilt. But no part of this curious character is so agreeable as his constant attendance upon the insane. With his birds, his rabbits, his ventriloquy, he is greeted with joy by the poor creatures, whose minds, “like sweet bells jangled out of tune,” are made briefly happy by his kindness and his skill. During the war he was omnipresent in the hospitals, performing gratuitously to the maimed and broken, filling the hours of convalescence with joy, and smoothing the pillows of the weary. He gave one hundred and thirty-two entertainments before sixty-three thousand soldiers, and three weeks, every afternoon and evening, at the “Great Sanitary Fair,” in Logan Square, Philadelphia. All this work was gratuitous. I quote from his autobiography his own idea of his mission :

[ocr errors]

A POPULAR RENDEZVOUS.

419

“Such witless sighing and croaking oddly contrast with the full free bursts of glee which break forth from the merry troops of children we meet on every hand, or the loud and joyous songs of the bright birds, to whose pure notes the streams and winds join their full chorus.

“It was a laugh which gave birth to Eden's first echo, and why not let it still live on?

“He who gives us one hour's pure pleasure is a far greater philanthropist than he who prates of charity and heaven, which can only be obtained, so says his creed, by passing through lives of sighing, fasting, and continued slavish fear of Him who would have us in all things free, living for the beautiful and good alone.”

This is my ninety-sixth anecdote; and yet, among the numerous characters I have attempted to describe, no one has done more to promote the happiness of his fellow-beings than Antonio Blitz.

[January 19, 1873.]

XCVII.

For many years before the war the northwest corner of Seventh and Chestnut Streets, Philadelphia, was a popular resort of public men of all sides. The head of the house was Harry Connelly, one of the handsomest men I ever knew, and full of excellent traits. You would not have taken him for the proprietor, with his exquisite dress, ruffled shirt, and easy manner. He was like one of his guests, and left his business to a bright mulatto called “Lew,” who was the factotum of the concern, and relieved his employer from a world of care. Both master and man are gone, and the old dingy building has given way to a stately structure, in part of which Colonel Greene's Sunday Transcript is printed and published; but the men who gathered in the ancient back room every day for years still live in many memories. They met involuntarily, and spent many happy hours. Harry Connelly saw much of society of all kinds, and was an especial favorite with the Southerners. He was the intimate of many of the great horsemen of Kentucky, and he had been present at more than one desperate personal encounter. Naturally most amiable, he believed in the code of honor, and was a party to more than one “affair.” A prince in expenditures, and a gentleman in manners, his rooms were sought by his friends far and near. "Harry Connelly's" was the scene of many important discussions and business operations. It was a rendezvous for people of diverse views and objectsa sort of neutral ground, where every body uttered his own ideas, and where every gentleman was tolerated. And it was pleasant to note that those who gathered at Connelly's were always careful in their treatment of each other. Henry Clay liked Harry as one of his original supporters, and frequently dropped in with his friend, ex-Mayor John Swift; Daniel Webster, who stopped at Hartwell's (now Bolton's) Washington House, two doors off, liked to take one of the rickety armchairs and talk to the pleasant host, and John J. Crittenden would stay for hours to gossip over the times. I have met in this dark back room, with its low, cobwebbed ceiling, most of the public characters between 1845 and 1860. Robert T. Conrad, author of "Jack Cade,” and Robert M. Bird, author of the “Gladiator;" David Wilmot and Henry M. Fuller; John C. Breckinridge and Jesse D. Bright; James Buchanan and John Slidell ; Josiah Randall (father of the present Representative from the First Congressional District, Pennsylvania), and James Watson Webb; George W. Barton and Ovid F. Johnson; James A. Bayard, who was a Senator in Congress, and George Gordon; Stephen A. Douglas and W. A. Richardson; John R. Thompson, of New Jersey, and George Law, of New York; the

VARIOUS HANDWRITINGS.

421

Pennsylvania Governors, D. R. Porter, W. F. Packer, W. F. Johnston, and Andrew G. Curtin; George Ashmun and Charles F. Train, of Massachusetts; Thaddeus Stevens, Jack Ogle, Dr. William Elder, Justice Thompson, Henry S. Magraw, Aristides Welch, D. K. Jackman, A. K. McClure, Charles Wister, of Pennsylvania, were among the visitors. You met there the kings of finance, of the stage, of the turf, and of politics. It was altogether a novelty, a spontaneous growth. I look over the long catalogue of those who made “Harry Connelly's" their head-quarters, and discover that while most of them are dead, none who survive can fail to realize that when our generous friend was himself called away we lost one of the few who was never half so happy as when he was making others happy,

[January 24, 1873.]

66

XCVIII.

The art of caligraphy, or fair handwriting, is one of the most useful of accomplishments, and the manner in which a man puts down his thoughts is often taken as an index to his character. But it is a great mistake to suppose that all our statesmen, old and new, did not or do not write plainly, and that the habit of rapid composition and heavy correspondence leads to carelessness. Washington's State papers, his letters, and his accounts, are models of order and cleanliness, rather set off by his antique spelling. James Madison wrote a small, beautiful hand, in keeping with his chaste and classic oratory. General Jackson wrote with the direct boldness of his nature, though somewhat indifferent to his orthography. James Buchanan prided himself upon his cautious style, his careful spelling, his exact punctuation, and the absence of interlineations. Henry Clay wrote plainly, like an outspoken and intrepid soul. Webster's hand, without being ornate, was strong. George M. Dallas was a master of the art. Nothing could be more exquisite or more graceful, in manner and matter, than his notes and letters. John Van Buren was not nearly so exact as his great father. Albert Gallatin wrote like copper-plate. I hold in my hand a a letter of his, dated New York, April, 1843, in which, referring to Thomas Jefferson, he says: “As the testimony of the only surviving member of Jefferson's Cabinet—as one entirely acquainted with him, who enjoyed his entire confidence—I can bear witness to the purity of his character, and to his sincere conviction of the truth of those political tenets which he constantly and openly avowed and promulgated. I do also aver, with a thorough knowledge of the facts, that for his elevation Thomas Jefferson was solely in debt to the sense entertained of his public services, and of his well-known political opinions, and that he was, altogether, the spontaneous choice of the people—not promoted by any intrigue, nor ever nominated by any assembly or convention, but without any preconcerted action, and yet without competitor, selected unanimously in every quarter as their candidate by the majority which elected him.” No lady in the land could surpass this fine autograph. Martin Van Buren's tribute to Jefferson is written in a rather large hand, and in a flowing style. He says, “With the single exception of General Washington, no man ever lived whose claims upon

the gratitude of mankind for public services were greater than those of Jefferson.” How beautifully the lamented William Wilkins, of Pittsburgh, whose venerable widow is now living in elegant retirement in Philadelphia, spoke on the same theme in the same year : “Why is it,” he asks, in a most satisfactory handwriting, “that time, so fatal to ordinary reputations, only serves to brighten the fame of him we delight to honor? The cause is not to be found in any or all the great actions of his life, however illustrious; it is due to that of which all these were but the outward manifestation, of the earnest and deep-seated con

ز

« PreviousContinue »