« PreviousContinue »
... Lolbi ARY clothe the fields around him; Nature is in her glory, but the sublimest spectacle on that day, on earth, was the victory of his unblenching spirit over death itself.
“When he first felt the hand of death upon him, 'May my enemies,' he cried, 'find peace; may the liberties of my country endure forever!'
“History does not describe the man that equalled him in firmness of nerve. Not danger, not an army in battle array, not wounds, not wide-spread clamor, not age, not the anguish of disease, could impair in the least degree the vigor of his steadfast mind. The heroes of antiquity would have contemplated with awe the unmatched hardihood of his character; and Napoleon, had he possessed his disinterested will, could never have been vanquished. Jackson never was vanquished. He was always fortunate. He conquered the wilderness; he conquered the savage; he conquered the bravest veterans trained in the battle - fields of Europe; he conquered everywhere in statesmanship; and when death came to get the mastery over him, he turned the last enemy aside as tranquilly as he had done the feeblest of his adversaries, and escaped from earth in the triumphant consciousness of immortality.
“His body has its fit resting-place in the great central valley of the Mississippi ; his spirit rests upon our whole territory; it hovers over the vales of Oregon, and guards in advance the frontier of the Del Norte. The fires of party spirit are quenched at his grave. His faults and frailties have perished. Whatever of good he has done lives, and will live forever.”
No wonder this exquisite production reached the popular heart in every latitude, and that its resistless rhetoric lingers in men's memory like angelic music. Written under the spur of duty, almost without notice, it was spoken with a fervor only surpassed by the eager sympathy with which it was welcomed by all who read or heard it. It is the model of funeral speeches.
I met Mr. Bancroft on his way to enter upon his duties as American Minister at the Prussian Court in July of 1867. Paran Stevens, of Boston, the founder of the Revere House in that city and the Fifth Avenue Hotel, New York, then living in splendor at the French capital as one of the American Commissioners at the French Exposition, invited me to dine with him; and there, together with Bancroft, I met John P. Kennedy, of Maryland; A. T. Stewart, of New York; Paul S. Forbes, of Boston; and several others. The Court was mourning for Maximilian, and the usual festivities were suspended; but there were not many tears shed over that event by our little party. Bancroft was the star of the evening, and delighted us by his joyous spirits, his ready humor, and his treasury of information. He and Paul S. Forbes are living, in fine health; but Paran Stevens, A. T. Stewart, and John P. Kennedy are sleeping with their fathers, and Napoleon the Third, who made Paris almost a Paradise in 1867, has followed them to the mysterious world.
THE WAR GOVERNORS NORTH AND SOUTH DURING THE RE
When Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated President, March 4, 1861, among the busy men of the nation were the Governors of the thirty-three States of the Union, since increased to thirtyeight by the admission of Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, West Virginia, and Colorado. It was my good fortune to know many of them in both sections.
At the very head of the War Governors of the Southern States history will place Sam Houston, of Texas. Born in Rockbridge County, Virginia, March 2, 1793, and dying July 25, 1863, his life was one wild and varied romance. Henry A.
Wise, in his recent“Life of John Tyler," painted the dark side of his character; but it was too bitter to be fair. That he had strong enemies is as true as that he had ardent friends (the first are always the proof of the last, and Governor Wise may be a good reflection of the first); but my visit to Texas in June of 1872 proved that Sam Houston is kindly and warmly remembered by thousands, even by many who had opposed him during his life. Such a verdict is more enduring than the harsh judgment of an individual. Kinglake's indictment of Louis Napoleon, like Victor Hugo's maledictions or Rochefort's satires, was in response to a popular prejudice, and is believed to this day; but there is no echo to a cry against Sam Houston. He is not cherished like Jackson or Lincoln; but his noble presence, his sly jokes, his winning ways, his roving habits, his battles, his escapades, and his love of the Union, are still the food of fireside gossip and good material for the historian. In my mind's eye, I see him in his broad-brimmed sombrero, his huge cane, his ruffles and his rings, his lofty air, and his extra-politeness to men and women. Even his vanity was a study, and nobody complained of it. He was not a bookish man in any sense, but he was shrewd and sagacious. The boldest recoiled before his quiet sarcasm, and he feared nothing. No ruffian ever threatened him with impunity; and the secessionists in the South, from Wigfall to Soulé, rarely came within reach of his caustic tongue. He was not a demonstrative speaker, but he disposed of a foe by a sentence that stung like a sting, and passed into universal circulation and memory. His career was a real romance of real life. His fatirer died when he was quite young, and his mother removed with her family, at the close of the last century, to the banks of the Tennessee River, then the limit of civilization. He passed years among the Indians, and when disgusted with civil life would go back to them as to his home. He was clerk to a country trader, kept school, served with distinction under Jackson in the Creek war, was a lawyer at Nashville, held many offices, among them that of Representative in Congress from Tennessee from 1823 to 1827. In 1829 he became Governor of that State, and resigned and went to live among the Indians, where he remained several years. It was during his Indian life and General Jackson's administration that he visited Washington to expose the frauds committed on the red men by the agents of the Government, and his peculiarities are still spoken of by old inhabitants of the District. About this time he visited Texas, then a State of Mexico, and so impressed the people that he was persuaded to stay. They elected him to their convention to frame their constitution; but Santa Anna, the Mexican President, rejected it, and war ensued and the declaration of Texan independence. Houston was made commander-in-chief of the Texan forces, and, after a campaign of great vigor, whipped the Mexicans at San Jacinto, in April of 1836; in May secured the recognition of Texan independence by Mexico; in October, same year, was elected President of the Republic of Texas; and then, because he could not, under the Constitution, be elected President twice in succession, he went into the Texan Congress. Afterwards he was again made President. He was always in favor of annexing Texas to the United States, which having been accomplished in 1846, he was at once elected to the United States Senate, and held his seat till 1859, when he returned to Texas and was chosen Governor by the people. He was thrown into the very vortex of the Rebellion, and was sorely tested. He never forgot his love for the Union, nor his love for Texas; but the fire-eaters were too much for him, and at last, when the Legislature passed a law that the Governor should take the oath of allegiance to the Confederacy, and he refused, they vacated the office and compelled him to surrender the archives. He labored earnestly to prevent bloodshed, and although he yielded to the decree of a misguided people, we must not forget that he resisted them as long as he could, and, perhaps, prevented an internal conflict between the Union and disunion elements. Such a conflict would have been inevitable—for there was always a large Union party in Texas, and he was its leader— had he not poured oil upon the waters. The record of his last administration of the government of the State he saved from Mexico and sealed to the nation is in accord with his eventful career, and with his bold, sagacious, and original character.
John Letcher, Governor of Virginia, was in Congress while I was Clerk. A strong partisan, he was honest and useful, and, as a member of the Committee of Ways and Means, was always opposed to corruption. He succeeded Henry A. Wise, who was elected in 1854-55, and remained Governor until 1864. An excellent speaker, strong in his facts, and popular for his quaint stories admirably told, he has worn well in a long career. He opposed secession resolutely at first, but yielded when Virginia cast her lot with the Rebellion. He is still living at Richmond, in the sixty-seventh year of his age.
Thomas Holliday Hicks, Governor of Maryland up to January, 1862, will be gratefully recollected for his stand against the dissatisfied politicians of that State. Happily for the Government, he was on the right side when the Baltimore mob rose against the Union troops as they passed through that city, April 19, 1861. Had he faltered, the movement by which reinforcements reached the capital, via Annapolis, would never have been accomplished. Perhaps the best vindication of this patriotic executive will be found in the speech of Henry Winter Davis at Baltimore on Wednesday evening, October 16, 1861, when he asked, “Did Maryland hesitate when Governor Hicks resolutely, for three decisive months, refused to convene her traitorous Legislature lest they might hurl her into the vortex of rebellion? Did she ever hesitate when cunning politicians pestered him with their importunities, when committees swarmed from every disloyal quarter of the State, when men of