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used it with so much effect that my defeat was believed to be sure.
On the night of the caucus, President Pierce sent for me and told me that he believed I could not be renominated, but that he was resolved, if I was not, to send my name into the Senate for an important mission to one of the South American States. I got through the struggle triumphantly, but I can never forget the act of the man who, in the darkest hour, extended his helping hand. Nor did his magnanimity stop here. Many of his adherents believed I ought to have supported him for President in 1856, when his name was used as a candidate for re-election; but he said: “I do not complain of you, my friend, for going with your State for Mr. Buchanan, whom you have known so long, though I fear you will be disappointed if he is President.” I could not approve the removal of Governor Reeder, of Kansas, for his refusal to help to make Kansas a slave State, in 1854, 5, any more than I could the removal by Mr. Buchanan of Governor Walker, in 1858, for his refusal to sanction the Lecompton frauds; but how different the toleration of Pierce from the persecution of his successor. While the whole Democratic press was denouncing Reeder and applauding his removal, President Pierce did not ask me to join in the crusade against my friend, and the Washington Union, of which I was then the editor, contained no line from my pen against him. Five years later I was proscribed and hunted down, simply because I would not sanction à proceeding far more despotic and unjust. While I was in the midst of this struggle with the Administration of Mr. Buchanan, I visited New England to see ex-President Pierce. He was, as usual, in earnest sympathy with the extreme South; but he received me and treated me like a brother, and the day I spent with him lives in my memory like a picture painted by angel hands.
As I find leisure I will try to give you a few more anecdotes of the public men I have met or known, or heard others speak of. These recollections will be free from personal or partisan prejudice. I propose to show that many of those who have served the State, however abused and misrepresented, were not without the elements of a true humanity.
[January 15, 1871.]
THERE is no habit of modern education so happy as that of keeping a regular diary of events. It provides the choicest of all historical material. Pleasant to cultivate, it constitutes the most profitable and pleasant of all our reading. From Pepys, in 1669, to Crabb Robinson, in 1869, with the intermediate works of Barrington, Boswell's Johnson, and Walpole's Letters—nothing survives so entirely the wreck and waste of time as these daily and delightful records of human experience. It is said that the journal of John Quincy Adams is the best monument of his stupendous industry. He kept it during all the working years of his working life. Reared to scholarship, diplomacy, and statecraft, he began it with his youth, and to the final hour, when he exclaimed, “This is the last of earth," observed the custom. The rare summary of the second President of a really great family, covering nearly two generations, has not yet seen the light, and will not, I understand, till most of the actors of whom it treats, doubtless with caustic freedom, have been gathered to their fathers. Other Presidents and statesmen were not so industrious, with perhaps the possible exception of Mr. Buchanan, whose biography has not appeared, owing to unexpected events. When it is published, we have his own pledge that it will be unstained by the use of any private correspondence, as we have the assurance from the high abilities of Hon. W.B. Reed, the gentleman selected to prepare
it, that it will be a production of consummate interest. The diary of Mr. Buchanan will be a treasure to his historian.
One realizes the broad distinction between memory and memoranda, in the attempt to make the one a substitute for the other. The written record of a Life, which is a photograph of every day's doings, is incomparably superior to the faded and fading images of the mind. Hence the failure of those who give dates and names from their unaided recollections. If I do not fall into this error in these familiar sketches, it will be because I shall adventure nothing calculated to give offense, nothing not susceptible of easy vindication and general credence.
But I must emphasize the suggestion that our young men and young women can employ one or two hours every day no more agreeably and usefully than by keeping a journal. Begun after school-time while they are boys and girls, and continued as they advance in life, it will be at once monitor and guide to themselves, and may be of incalculable value in the crystallization of history.
I remember a dinner-party at the time I lived in Washington during the administration of General Pierce, which requires no diary to keep fresh in my heart. It took place at my residence, and in the house now known as the Waverley, on Eighth Street, back of The Chronicle office, where I resided up to 1856, when I left Washington to help make Mr. Buchanan President, and never returned, save to join in the work of overthrowing him after he broke the promise of justice to Kansas, which alone elected him. There were present some twenty of the leaders of the Democratic party, North and South, among them Mr. Slidell, Mr. Breckinridge, and I think Mr. Douglas. One of my guests was Dr. William Elder, my friend at that day, though we differed widely about slavery, just as he is to-day, when we closely agree in opposing it. I had met him on a former visit to Philadelphia, and invited him to come to Washington and sojourn under my roof. He came on the evening before the party in question, somewhat to the consternation of those of my family who knew his pronounced abolitionism, and the equally pronounced pro-slavery views of those who were to dine with me next day. But there was no help for it; indeed, I was glad to meet the gifted and polished Doctor. My own mind was far from clear as to the justice of the course of my party in regard to Kansas, and I made no concealment of my doubts. The angry protests of the North against that contemplated villainy were being heard in the elections. The Democracy had just been unhorsed, right and left, North and South, by the Know-Nothing storm, and the old leaders knew that meant something more than hostility to foreigners and Catholics, and was in fact the first mutterings of a far greater tempest. The Southern leaders of the day were not yet ready to hazard a rebellion. They were eager to conciliate Northern anti-slavery men; and those I knew were always gentlemen in social life. This was especially so with Slidell, Benjamin, Breckinridge, Cobb, etc. And so, when the restraint of the first course or two was thawed by a generous draught of champagne, those who sat at my board were quickly attracted by the agreeable manners and dazzling wit of my abolition friend. He gradually monopolized their whole attention by his comments on books and men, and his full knowledge of the resources of their own section.
At last one of them said, “ Pray, Doctor Elder, how is it that one of your tastes and learning should be so opposed to Southern rights and institutions ?" That opened the ball, and, nothing loth, he answered with a story I can never forget; a story which I believe has ver been forgotten by any one who heard it: “When I lived in Pittsburgh, gentlemen,” said the Doctor, “where I had the honor to vote for James G. Birney for President in 1844, being one of a very, very small party, which will soon control Pennsylvania by an Andrew Jackson majority, we had a strange character among us who occasionally made
DR. WILLIAM ELDER.
speeches against slavery, and whose peculiarities were that when he became excited he gave way to uncontrollable tears and oaths. I always went to hear him, for there was an odd fascination about him. One night he was advertised to speak against the fugitive-slave law-a measure which roused him almost to madness—and I was among the audience. He closed his harangue with a passage something like this: ‘Let us apply this law to ourselves, brethren and sisters. I live about a mile out of town, and rarely get back to my quiet home till evening; and the first to welcome me at the garden-gate are my little girl Mary and my bright-eyed son Willie—the joy of my heart, the stars of my life. Suppose, when I get home to-morrow, I meet my wife, instead of my children, at the door, and on asking for my darlings, she tells me that a man called John C. Calhoun, of South Carolina, and another man called Henry Clay, of Kentucky, had come, in my absence, and carried them down South into slavery? How would you feel in such a case? How do you think I would feel? What would I do? you ask. Well, I will tell you. I would follow the aforesaid John C. Calhoun and Henry Clay; follow them to the South; follow them to the gates of death and hell; yes, into hell, and there cram the redhot coals down their d-d, infernal throats !'
"And this outburst," added Dr. Elder, "was punctuated with alternate sobs and swearing. I have given you one of the many causes, gentlemen, that have confirmed me in my abolitionism."
It is impossible to convey an idea of the manner in which Dr. Elder told this incident, or the effect produced upon the Southern men around him. They listened with profound and breathless interest, and more than one with a pale cheek and moistened eye; and though they did not say they agreed with the eloquent Doctor, I saw that they respected him for the candor and warmth with which he had replied to their equally candid question.
[January 22, 1871.}