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Illinois since the "big snow," and his party loyalty was a proverb.
As I shook hands with him when he came into my office, he laid aside his saddle-bags, stood his rifle in the corner, took off his blanket overcoat, and seating himself by the fire, inquired how my "folks" all were. The answer being satisfactory, and the fact ascertained by me that his own 'folks" were well, he asked,
"Mr. Stevenson, who are you fur fur President?”
Unhesitatingly and earnestly I replied, "Davis."
A shade, as of disappointment, appeared for a moment upon his countenance, but instantly recovering himself, he said, "Well, if they nominate him, we will give him the usual majority in our precinct, but don't you think, Mr. Stevenson, it is a leetle airly to bring old Jeff out?"
A STATESMAN OF A PAST ERA
ZEBULON B. VANCE, THE IDOLIZED GOVERNOR OF NORTH CAROLINA HIS LEARNING AND HIS HUMOR HE RECALLS MEN AND MATTERS OF THE OLDEN TIME HE SUITS HIS CREED TO HIS AUDIENCE HIS SPEECH IN FAVOR OF HORACE GREELEY.
NAME to conjure with in the old North State is Zeb Vance. What Lee was to Virginia, Hendricks to Indiana, Clay to Kentucky, and Lincoln to Illinois, Zebulon B. Vance was for a lifetime to North Carolina. He was seldom spoken of as Governor, or Senator, but alike in piny woods and in the mountains, he was familiarly called “Zeb Vance." It were scant praise to say merely that he was popular. He was the idol of all classes and conditions. A decade has gone since he passed to the grave, but his memory is still green. A grateful people have erected a monument to commemorate his public services, while from the French Broad to the Atlantic, alike in humble cabin and stately home, his name is a household word.
"He had kept the whiteness of his soul,
The expression "rare," as given to Ben Jonson, might with equal propriety be applied to Senator Vance. Deeply read in classic lore, a profound lawyer, and an indefatigable student from the beginning in all that pertained to human government, he was the fit associate of the most cultured in the drawing-room or the Senate. None the less, with the homely topics of everyday life for discussion, he was equally at home, and ever a welcome guest at the hearthstone of the humblest dweller in pine forest and mountain glen of his native State.
Of all the men I have ever known, Vance was par excellence the possessor of the wondrous gift of humor. It was in
grained; literally a part of his very being. He once told me that he thought his fame for one generation, at least, was secure, inasmuch as one-half of the freckled-faced boys and two-thirds of the "yaller" dogs in North Carolina had been named in his honor.
Upon one occasion in the Senate, a bill he had introduced was bitterly antagonized by a member who took occasion in his speech, while questioning the sincerity of Vance, to extol his own honesty of purpose. In replying to the vaunt of superior honesty by his opponent, Vance quoted the old Southland doggerel:
"De darky in de ole camp ground
Dat loudest sing and shout
The summer home of Senator Vance during the later years of his life was in his native county of Buncombe, about twenty miles from Asheville, where for some days I was his guest, many years ago. Leaving the cars at the nearest station and following the trail for a dozen miles, I found the Senator snugly ensconced in his comfortable home at the top of the mountain. He was alone, his family being "down in the settlements," as he told me. An old negro man to whom Vance once belonged, as he assured me, was housekeeper, cook, and butler, besides being the incumbent of various other offices of usefulness and dignity.
The first inquiry from Vance as, drenched with rain, I entered his abode and approached a blazing fire, was, "Are you dry?" It would only gratify an idle curiosity to tell how the first moments of this memorable visit passed. Suffice it to say that old-time Southern hospitality was at its best, and so continued till the morning of the fifth day, when I descended in company with my host to the accustomed haunts of busy men.
The days and evenings passed with Vance at the cheerful fireside of his mountain home still live in my memory. He literally "unfolded himself," and it was indeed worth while to listen to his description of the quaint times and customs
with which he was familiar in the long ago, to hear of the men he had known and of the stormy events of which he had been a part.
His public life reached back to a time anterior to the war. He was in Congress when its Representatives assembled in the Old Hall, now the "Valhalla" of the nation. Events once of deep significance were recalled from the mists of a long past; men who had strutted their brief hour upon the stage and then gone out with the tide were made to live again. Incidents once fraught with deep consequence but now relegated to the by-paths of history, were again in visible presence, as if touched by the enchanter's wand.
The scenes, of which he was the sad and silent witness, attendant upon the withdrawal of his colleagues and associates from both chambers of the Capitol, and the appeal to the sword-precursors of the chapter of blood yet to be written were never more graphically depicted by mortal tongue.
I distinctly recall, even at this lapse of time, some of the incidents he related. When first he was a candidate for Congress, far back in the fifties, his district embraced a large portion of the territory of the entire western part of his State. Fully to appreciate what follows, it must be remembered that at that time there was in the backwoods country, and in the out-of-the-way places, far off from the great highways, much of antagonism between the various religious denominations. At times much of the sermons of the rural preachers consisted of denunciations of other churches. By a perusal of the autobiography of the Rev. Peter Cartwright, it will be seen that western North Carolina was only in line with other portions of the great moral vineyard. The doctrines peculiar to the particular denomination were preached generally with great earnestness and power. "Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love," was too seldom heard in the rural congregations. In too many, indeed, Christian charity, even in a modified form, was an unknown quantity.
Under the conditions mentioned, to say that seekers of