Page images

return of the seceding States], it will be our duty to support the President with all the men and means at the command of the country, in a vigorous and successful prosecution of the war.” Under date of August 29, 1866, referring to this “Hayesville letter," as he termed it, he said in a letter to me, “I thank you for having caused it to be published. It is in perfect consistency with all I have written or said.”

If he was not as prominently active during the war as might have been, the secret of it may perhaps be discovered in his reply to the following letter, the production of which in this familiar communication (since, contrary to my usual custom, I happened to retain a copy) will, I trust, be excused :

“WASHINGTON, April 22, 1865. “MY DEAR SIR, — It is a long time since I have had the pleasure of receiving a letter from you, and, although I believe the last which passed between us was from me, I venture again to address you, for within the past week my thoughts have been frequently directed toward you and the scenes of the last few weeks of your administration. The frightful tragedy just enacted in our midst appears only as the natural sequence of the acts of the rebel conspirators in commencing first to denounce you because you resisted their efforts to take possession of or break up the Government, and next in openly assailing the Government by fire and sword after the reins had passed from your hands. I have felt a strong desire to hear from you, not only in months past, but especially in this period when the whole heart of the nation is bowed and stricken with grief. In all the letters I have from you wherein you speak of the rebellion, it is a pleasure and a consolation to know that your declarations, and hopes, and prayers are all for your country and its brave defenders, and it is reasonable to suppose that few if any of our fellow-citizens can be more deeply moved than you yourself must be at the awful assassination of President Lincoln. Why, then, may we not be favored by a word from you—possibly, in all this darkness, a word of encouragement and of hope? Whether for the public eye or not, be assured it will always afford me sincere pleasure to receive a letter from you. “I have the honor to be, very respectfully and truly,

'HORATIO KING. “ His Excellency, JAMES BUCHANAN, Wheatland, Pa.”

“WHEATLAND, NEAR LANCASTER, April 27, 1865. “MY DEAR SIR,—Rest assured that I was much gratified to receive your favor of the 22d. If I was indebted a letter to you, I am sorry for it; because I entertain no other feeling toward you but that of kindness and friendship.

In common with you, I feel the assassination of President Lincoln to be a terrible misfortune to our country. May God, in his mercy, ward from us the evils which it portends, and bring good out of this fearful calamity! My intercourse with our deceased President, both on his visit to me after his arrival in Washington and on the day of his first inauguration, convinced me that he was a man of a kind and benevolent heart, and of plain, sincere, and frank manners. I have never since changed my opinion of his character. ndeed, I felt for him much personal regard.

Throughout the years of the war I never faltered in my conviction that it would eventually terminate in the crushing of the rebellion, and was ever opposed to the recognition of the Confederate government by any act which even looked in that direction. Believing, always, secession to be a palpable violation of the Constitution, I considered the acts of secession to be absolutely void, and that the States were therefore still members, though rebellious members, of the Union.

“Having prayed night and morning for the restoration of the Union, the Constitution, and our civil liberties, and fondly believing that President Lincoln was the destined instrument in the hands of Divine Providence to accomplish these inestimable blessings, the awful news of his diabolical assassination at such a moment overwhelmed me with sorrow.

“ These are my heartfelt sentiments which you invite, but they are not for the public eye. When, on the first opportunity after the battle of Bull Run I expressed strong opinions to a public meeting in support of the war, I was assailed as violently for this . . . as if I had uttered treason. If I were now to write for the public, which I could do with heartfelt emotion, on the subject of the assassination, I should be treated in a similar manner.'

“My health is good, considering that I was seventy-four years of age on Sunday last. I lead a tranquil and retired life; and should be very glad to welcome you once more to Wheatland. “From your friend, very respectfully,


In conclusion, let me say that I present this communication in no partisan spirit, but purely in the interest of truth

and justice, without reference to party politics. Moreover, I have no hesitation in declaring that I consider it a duty plainly devolving upon me to bear this testimony, while yet I may, to the honesty, fidelity, and patriotism of Mr. Buchanan. Seldom if ever absent from his post, whether as senator, secretary of state, minister plenipotentiary, or President of the United States, he was attentive to every duty incumbent upon him. While President, if a citizen, no matter how humble, appealed from any head of a department to him for redress, he always listened with patience, and, calling for a full statement of facts of the case, investigated it thoroughly, and gave his decision in the spirit of an upright judge. No one was turned away. He acted as the President of the whole people, and as feeling that he was ultimately to be held responsible for every official act done under his administration. If matters happened to go wrong, no one regretted it more than he. His ardent desire was for everything to go right. Happy would it be for the people of this country could they be assured of always securing in the higher posts of honor and authority, men as able, conscientious, and patriotic as was James Buchanan, late President of the United States.

WASHINGTON, September, 1870.



Its Progress—The Hand of the Almighty now Apparent—Poison at the

National Hotel.

WASHINGTON, Nov. 13, 1863. Rev. G. M. P. KING, PROVIDENCE, R. I.

DEAR SIR,—What you say in regard to the sentiments and conduct of some of the people in New England touching the war would have surprised me had I not in my visit there last summer heard and seen the same things. It seemed to me that many of our friends there considered it their duty, in standing up for what they called the “rights of the South,” to advocate the cause of slavery with quite as much earnestness as we of the Democratic party in a spirit of generosity, when we knew less about it than at present, felt constrained to do in our political contests previous to the war. Instead of moving forward with the rest of the world, they appear to remain stationary. As an instance of this not a little amusing, I observed in a Maine newspaper, just before the late election in that State, an extract from a speech of George F. Shepley, Esq., now brigadier-general of volunteers, delivered in 1856, in which he took occasion to pay a high compliment to John C. Breckinridge, then a candidate for the Vice-Presidency, which extract was quoted to show General Shepley's present inconsistency in giving his hearty support to the measures of the administration for the suppression of the rebellion in which this same recreant son of Kentucky is engaged! I am pained to say that I met some who justified the South in taking up arms, and who were bitterly severe upon the administration for every shortcoming, real or supposed, while blind to the stupendous crimes and wickedness which have characterized the boasted “chivalry” of the South from the moment of their embracing the hideous monster, Treason, to the present time. Averring that the South was fighting for republican independence as fought the heroes of 1776, they charged that it was the purpose of the administration to prosecute the war for the abolishment of slavery and the subjugation of her people. They seemed willing to ignore, if not actually to deny, the fact that, instead of republican liberty, the leaders of the rebellion openly proclaimed that they were contending for the establishment of a government, than which none could be more aristocratic, and of which, as declared by their Vice-President, A. H. Stephens, slavery was the “ corner-stone.” But the further we move onward into the heart of the South, the clearer view do we gain, not only of the real character of slavery, but of those who seek to found a government upon it. You have no doubt read a remarkable article on this subject, which appeared in the Richmond Examiner of 28th May last, at a time when the rebels were flushed with success and full of hope. The writer of that article says, “ The establishment of the Confederacy is verily a distinct reaction against the whole course of the mistaken civilization of the age. And this is the true reason why we have been left without the sympathy of the nations till we conquered that sympathy with the sharp edge of the sword. For liberty, equality, fraternity, we have deliberately substituted slavery, subordination, and government. Those social and political problems which rack and torture modern society, we have undertaken to solve for ourselves in our own way and on our own principles.”

“ Reverently we feel,” he continues, “ that our Confederacy is a God-sent missionary to the nations, with great truths to preach. We must speak them boldly, and whoso hath ears to hear let him hear.” Is it not passing strange, when we behold the South-I mean those who control there-acting up to these monstrous doctrines, that there should be any division of

« PreviousContinue »