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lifetime, continent was bound to continent, hemisphere answered through ocean's depths to hemisphere, and an encircled globe flashed forth his eulogy in the unmatched eloquence of a grand achievement."
Words of praise, spoken by Dr. Prime, of the great inventor just after he had passed from the world, to which he left such a heritage, can never lose their interest:
"Morse in his coffin is a recollection never to fade. He lay like an ancient prophet or sage such as the old masters painted for Abraham, or Isaiah. His finely chiselled features, classical in their mould and majestic in repose, and heavy flowing beard; the death calm upon the brow that for eighty years had concealed a teeming brain, and that placid beauty that lingers upon the face of the righteous dead, as if the freed spirit had left a smile upon its forsaken home these are the memories that remain of the most illustrious and honored private citizen that the New World has yet given to mankind."
ALONG THE BYPATHS OF HISTORY
THE WIDOW OF GEN. GAINES CLAIMS PROPERTY AT NEW ORLEANS
WORTH $30,000,000 — HER SUCCESS AFTER MUCH LITIGATION THE WIDOW OF JOHN H. EATON, SECRETARY OF WAR — - A CLOUD ON HER REPUTATION - ·HER HUSBAND A FRIEND OF GEN. JACKSON A DUEL BETWEEN RANDOLPH AND CLAY · HOSTILITY OF THE LEADERS OF WASHINGTON SOCIETY TO MRS. EATON SECRETARY EATON DISLIKED BY HIS COLLEAGUES · CONSEQUENT DISRUPTION OF JACKSON'S CABINET
MRS. EATON'S POVERTY IN HER OLD AGE.
EARLY a third of a century ago, as the guest in a Wash
ington home, I had the opportunity of meeting Mrs. Gaines, the widow of General Edmund P. Gaines, a distinguished officer of the War of 1812, and Mrs. Eaton, the widow of the Hon. John H. Eaton of Tennessee, for a number of years a Senator from that State, and later Secretary of War during the administration of President Jackson. Their names suggesting interesting events in our history, I gladly availed myself of the invitation to meet them.
I found Mrs. Gaines an old lady of small stature, with a profusion of curls, and gifted with rare powers of conversation. She spoke freely of her great lawsuits, one of which was then pending in the Supreme Court of the United States. As I listened, I thought of the wonderful career of the little woman before me. Few names, a half-century ago, were more familiar to the reading public than that of Myra Clark Gaines. She was born in New Orleans in the early days of the century; was the daughter of Daniel Clark, who died in 1813, the owner of a large portion of the land upon which the city of New Orleans was afterwards built. She was his only heir, and soon after attaining her majority, instituted a suit, or series of suits, for the recovery of her property. After years of litigation, the seriously controverted fact of her being the lawful heir of Daniel Clark was established, and the con
test, which was to wear out two generations of lawyers, began in dead earnest. The value of the property involved in the litigation then exceeded thirty millions of dollars. At the time I saw her, she had just arrived from her home in New Orleans to be present at the argument of one of her suits in the Supreme Court. She had already received nearly six millions of dollars by successful litigation, and she assured me that she intended to live one hundred years longer, if necessary, to obtain her rights, and that she expected to recover every dollar to which she was rightfully entitled. The air of confidence with which she spoke, and the pluck manifested in her every word and motion, convinced me at once that the only possible question as to her ultimate success was that of time. And so indeed it proved, for,
"When like a clock worn out with eating time,
The wheels of weary life at last stood still,"
numerous suits, in which she had been successful in the lower courts, were still pending in the higher.
She told me with apparent satisfaction, during the interview, that she could name over fifty lawyers who had been against her since the beginning of her contest, all of whom were now in their graves. Her litigation was the one absorbing thought of her life, her one topic of conversation.
General Gaines had died many years before, and her legal battles, extending through several decades and against a host of adversaries, she had, with courage unfaltering and patience that knew no shadow of weariness, prosecuted single-handed and alone.
In view of the enormous sums involved, the length of time consumed in the litigation, the number and ability of counsel engaged, and the antagonisms engendered, the records of our American courts will be searched in vain for a parallel to the once famous suit of Myra Clark Gaines against the city of New Orleans.
At the close of this interview, I was soon in conversation with the older of the two ladies. Mrs. Eaton was then near the close of an eventful life, one indeed without an approximate parallel in our history. Four score years ago, there
were few persons in the village of Washington to whom "Peggy O'Neal" was a stranger. Her father was the proprietor of a well-known, old-style tavern on Pennsylvania Avenue, which, during the sessions of Congress, included among its guests many of the leading statesmen of that day. Of this number were Benton, Randolph, Eaton, Grundy, and others equally well known. The daughter, a girl of rare beauty, on account of her vivacity and grace soon became a great favorite with all. She was without question one of the belles of Washington.
It was difficult for me to realize that the care-worn face before me was that of the charming Peggy O'Neal of early Washington days. Distress, poverty, slander possibly, had measurably wrought the sad change, but after all,
"The surest poison is Time."
Traces of her former self still lingered, however, and her erect form and dignified mien would have challenged respect in any assembly.
While yet in her teens, she had married a purser in the Navy, who soon after died by his own hand, while on a cruise to the Mediterranean. A year or two after his death, with reputation somewhat clouded, she married the Honorable John H. Eaton, then a Senator from Tennessee. He was many years her senior, was one of the leading statesmen of the day, and had rendered brilliant service in the campaign which terminated so triumphantly at New Orleans. He was the devoted personal and political friend of General Jackson, his earliest biographer, and later his earnest advocate for the Presidency. Indeed, the movement having in view the election of "Old Hickory" was inaugurated by Major Eaton assisted by Amos Kendall and Francis P. Blair.
This was in 1824, before the days of national conventions. Eaton visited several of the States in the interest of his old commander, and secured the hearty coöperation of many of the most influential men. It was in large degree through his personal efforts that the Legislatures of Pennsylvania and Tennessee proposed the name of Andrew Jackson for the great office.
The Presidential contest of that year marked an epoch in our political history. It was at the close of the Monroe administration, "the era of good feeling. The struggle for supremacy which immediately followed was the precursor of an era of political strife which left its deep and lasting impress upon the country. Of the four candidates in the field, two were members of the outgoing Cabinet of President Monroe: John Quincy Adams, Secretary of State, and William H. Crawford, Secretary of the Treasury. The remaining candidates were Henry Clay, the eloquent and accomplished Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Andrew Jackson "the hero of New Orleans." The candidates were all of the same party, that founded by Jefferson; the sun of the once powerful Federalists had set, and the Whig party was yet in the future.
No one of the candidates receiving a majority of the electoral votes, the election devolved upon the House of Representatives. Mr. Clay being the lowest upon the list, the choice by constitutional requirement was to be made from his three competitors. The influence of the Kentucky statesman was thrown to Mr. Adams, who was duly elected, receiving the votes of a bare majority of the States. The determining vote was given by the sole representative from Illinois, the able and brilliant Daniel P. Cook, a friend of Mr. Clay. The sad sequel was the defeat of Cook at the next Congressional election, his immediate retirement from public life, and early and lamented death.
Not less sad was the effect of the vote just given upon the political fortunes of Henry Clay. His high character and distinguished public services were scant protection against the clamor that immediately followed his acceptance of the office of Secretary of State tendered him by President Adams. "Bargain and Corruption" was the terrible slogan of his enemies in his later struggles for the Presidency and its echo scarcely died out with that generation.
In this connection, the bitter words spoken in the Senate by John Randolph will be recalled: "The coalition between the Puritan and the blackleg." The duel which followed,