Page images
PDF
EPUB

were upon the lips of every one, because they eventually took shape, and appeared in a public and formal allegation. A few weeks before the election the leading Republican paper in Chicago charged that Mr. Douglas spent in riotous living an immense annual revenue, derived from his plantations in Mississippi ; and not content with thus profiting by his property in human beings—his equals in all human attributes—he neglected them, placed them under cruel and tyrannical masters, who denied to the poor slaves food enough to keep them from suffering, and clothing enough to hide their nakedness. Upon this statement of facts, for which the authority of a distinguished southern senator was claimed, the paper produced a sensation article, which was extensively copied throughout all Illinois and the northwest. Mr. Douglas was absent from Chicago, and did not see the charge until after the election, Both Republican and administration orators made the most of the horrid condition of “Douglas' slaves;” and the gentleman to whom Mr. Douglas had intrusted the care and management of his children's estate was held up to the people as a monster of wickedness, and as a demon in cruelty.

The writer of these pages heard the same story repeated at a Republican convention in Chicago in September or October, 1858, by one of the persons nominated as a candidate for the Legislature. The candidate stated that there could be no doubt of the facts, for they were derived from a very distinguished southern man who had lately been in Chicago.

In the meantime the story had reached New Orleans, there attracting much attention. The authors of the story seemed to have overlooked the possibility that there would be ultimately an exposure of its want of truth. The New Orleans Picayune first noticed it, and pronounced it “ an election canard.” The Chicago Press and Tribune at once responded as follows:

“We have only to say that the story came to us from a rsonal friend of Mr. Slidell—a gentleman of character and influence in this city—and he assured us that he had the statement from Slidell himself, during his visit to Chicago, while the late canvass was going on. His name is at the service of any one authorized to demand it."

The Democratic paper at Chicago at once demanded the name of the “gentleman of character” who had made the

statement. Upon the streets the name was publicly mentioned, but it had not been given up by the Press and Tribune. At last it was charged that Dr. DANIEL BRAINARD, a federal office-holder, was the man.

On the 18th of December Mr. Slidell published in the Washington Union a denial of having ever told Dr. Brainard or any one else such a story. He said :

I am constrained to believe either that Dr. Brainard did not make the statement attributed to him by the Chicago Press and Tribune, or that he has been guilty of a deliberate and malicious falsehood. I have no recollection of ever having spoken of Mr. Douglas slaves; it is possible that I may bave been asked if he had any property of that description. If so, I could only have answered that they were employed in cotton-planting on the Mississippi river, and were in possession of an old and valued friend, James A. McHatton, than whom a more honorable man or better master cannot be found in Louisiana."

On the 23d of December Dr. Brainard addressed a note to the editors of the Press and Tribune, denying having ever made the statements imputed to him. In the issue of that paper of December 24 the editors lifted the veil and exposed the whole fabrication. That

paper

said :

“We have on two occasions promised that, when called upon by one authorized to ask the name of the gentleman who related to us, on the authority of Mr. John Slidell, the story of the ill-treatment of Mr. Douglas' slaves, we would give it to the public. Mr. Slidell in his card above makes no demand of the kind; but as he denounces as a falsehood the story itself, we are impelled to make the following statement:

“In July last, about the time of Mr. Slidell's visit to Chicago, one of the editors of this paper was informed by Dr. Daniel Brainard, Professor of Surgery in the Rush Medical College, in a conversation invited by the doctor himself, in his own office, that Mr. Douglas' slaves in the South were the subjects of inhuman and disgraceful treatment—that they were hired out to a factor at fifteen dollars per annum each-that he, in turn, hired them out to others in lots, and that they were ill-fed, over-worked, and in every way so badly treated that they were spoken of in the neighborhood where they are held as a disgrace to all slaveholders and the system they support.' The authority given for these alleged facts, by Dr. Brainard, was the Hon. John Slidell, of Louisiana.

*

*

*

“At that time, Dr. Brainard suggested that the case as stated was a proper one for newspaper comment; and he urged that Mr. Douglas should be denounced in the Press and Tribune for his inhumanity. Just before election, on the authority above stated, we did comment upon Mr. Douglas' share in this matter with considerable severity. Out of tho article in which he was rebuked this controversy has grown.

“We had no doubt at the time this conversation took place, and have no doubt now, that Dr. Brainard was honest and truthful in his relation. We

[ocr errors]

believe him to be a gentleman, at least the equal of John Slidell in ability and veracity. If we are mistaken in our recollection, that he had the particulars recited from Mr. Slidell himself, he will no doubt inform us and Mr. Slidell from whom he had them, and we shall then be one step nearer the author of a tale, which, according to Mr. Slidell's latest testimony, is false."

On December 28th Brainard published another letter, in which he admitted that he had had conversations with the editors of the Republican paper about the hardships, etc., of “Douglas' slaves,” but denied having given Mr. Slidell as an authority. There the matter ended. The story failed to accomplish its original purpose, viz., to defeat Douglas' election. It resulted in obtaining Mr. Slidell's testimony that the slaves were in the possession of a gentleman “than whom a more honorable man or better master cannot be found in Louisiana." It also resulted in a question of veracity between two leaders of Douglas' active opponents—the Republican editor, and Dr. Brainard, a federal office-holder. Upon the subject there never has been and is now but one opinion in Chicago. Hundreds had heard the story as published by the Republican paper, and until Mr. Slidell's letter of denial no one had ever doubted that he had authorized it. This having been the most violent, will possibly be the last paroxysm of abolition regard for the moral and physical condition of "Douglas plantation of human chattels.” The total failure of the attempt to injure Mr. Douglas before his constituents by this malicious fabrication was but a sorry return for the self-abasement committed by those who participated in repeating the slander. Dr. Brainard still holds federal office in Chicago. He has never given up the name of his authority, and the point whether he did not furnish Mr. Slidell's name in the first instance is involved in a question of veracity between him and the Republican editor. The public have never doubted on which side was the truth.

Mr. Douglas is the owner of a very large landed estate in Illinois. His grounds at “Cottage Grove,” near the southern limits of Chicago, are extensive and very valuable. In 1856 he deeded ten acres of this valuable land--worth possibly six thousand dollars an acre-to the Trustees of the Chicago University, an institution organized under the auspices and patronage of the Baptist denomination. Upon this land thus donated has already been erected a portion of the University buildings, and already a large class of students, under the direction of an

[ocr errors]

accomplished faculty, are receiving instruction. The cornerstone of the University was laid with appropriate honors on the 4th of July, 1856, and the ceremonies were attended by an immense concourse of people.

In 1856 Mr. Douglas disposed of one hundred acres of land on the western limits of Chicago, for the round sum of $100,000. His contributions that year in aid of the election of Mr. Buchanan, particularly to aid the Democracy in carrying Pennsylvania, were liberal in the extreme. In Illinois he was present in person; he was aided by Richardson, Harris, McClernand, Morris, Marshall, Shaw, Smith, Logan and a host of Democrats; and though Illinois, unlike Pennsylvania, had no candidate on the national ticket, still when called upon by Douglas and his friends, gave to the son of Pennsylvania a free, unbought, and generous support—a support that no expenditure of money could have obtained—a support given voluntarily by intelligent freemen to the candidates of their party, pledged to sustain the cherished principles of the Democratic platform.

CHAPTER XIX.

VARIOUS MATTERS. In the spring of 1853 Mr. Douglas visited Europe, and spent several months in personal observation of the practical workings of the various systems of government. He stayed a considerable time in England, and though he had the pleasure and honor of being presented to several of the monarchs of Europe, it was done at no sacrifice of personal independence or yielding of American principle.

THE AMERICAN COSTUME. He was presented to the Emperor of Russia, and was not presented to the Queen of England. The circumstances attending his success in the one case, and his failure in the other, furnish a practical lesson of the respect due to national etiquette.

When he was in London there were several eminent gentlemen of the United States there at the same time; these as well as Mr. Douglas were about to be presented to her majesty at the next reception. When the time came, there came also the inexorable requirement that the Americans must put off that costume and dress which is universal at home, and put on another which is entirely discarded in their own country. Mr. Douglas protested, as did also his countrymen, but the requirements of royal etiquette could not be evaded. The alternative was to submit to a change of costume, or be denied a presentation to the queen. Mr. Douglas accepted the latter, and his companions put on the dress required by the court; they were presented and he was not.

Subsequently he visited St. Petersburg, and for two weeks examined personally all the public institutions of the capital, and sought a thorough knowledge of the manners, laws and government of that city and of the empire. He had not made known his official position. After this time he left his card at the residence of Count Nesselrode, and promptly received a cordial and pressing invitation to that minister's palace. The interview was a pleasant and agreeable one; the political affairs of the United States and of Europe were discussed unreservedly and with mutual gratification. At this, or a subsequent interview, Mr. Douglas announced his intended departure from the city, when Count Nesselrode inquired if he did not desire a presentation to the emperor. Mr. Douglas expressed the great pleasure such an honor would be to him, but suggested the difficulty of the court dress.” Count Nessel

“ rode, after some consultation upon this point, frankly told Mr. Douglas that he was right; that a citizen of the United States entitled to be presented to a monarch in Europe, if received at all should be received in that dress in which he would be admitted to the presence of the President of the United States, and added that if Mr. Douglas desired to be presented to the emperor he could possibly arrange the interview within a few days.

Mr. Douglas thanked his distinguished friend for his kindness to him personally, and also for his manly and honorable tribute to the dignity of American citizenship.

The result was that in a few hours Mr. Douglas was visited by an officer of the imperial household, with a notice that he would be received by the emperor. Mr. Douglas had the good fortune to be placed in the hands of Baron Stoeckle, who is well known in the United States from his official position in

a

« PreviousContinue »