« PreviousContinue »
erick fell at the hands of Terry in 1859. He advocated the extremest measures against the rebellion, and sustained the Lincoln Administration. But as the excitement grew, and sterner measures were demanded, he gradually fell back into the ranks of the old Democracy, and died in that faith. be no irreverence to his memory to say that James A. McDougall would have been living now if he had not yielded to the destroyer. When I first saw him in 1853, as a Representative from California, he was the picture of health and strength. Public life, with all its fascinations, was too much for him. Generous to a fault, unusually disinterested, the enemy of all corruption, he had the material for a long and useful life. Had he not discarded the opportunities in his path, and surrendered to the allurements around him, he might have been still among
Unlike some in the same body, McDougall rarely forgot his place. If he committed excesses, it was outside the Senate chamber. Every body loved him. I think he had not a personal enemy, and those who opposed him politically admired his genius and deplored his weakness. Some of his arguments were specimens of complete logic. He was an adept in the law. He seldom forgot an authority, and his opinion on the gravest questions was frequently sought and followed. Well versed in the classics, familiar with ancient and modern poetry, his tastes, whether of books or men, were always refined. One of his last speeches is that which follows, pronounced from his seat in the Senate on the 11th of April, 1866, on the proposition of Senator Wilson, of Massachusetts, to prohibit the sale of liquor in the Capitol building. It is given exactly as it fell from his lips, and is a sad explanation of the cause which called him too early from life to death, and of his peculiar habits of thought at a period when he seemed to have entirely abandoned all hope of self-redemption:
“MR. PRESIDENT: It was once said that there are as many minds as men, and there is no end to wrangling. I had oc
casion some years since to discourse with a reverend doctor of divinity from the State which has the honor to be the birthplace, I think, of the president of this body. While I was discoursing with him a lot of vile rapscallions invited me to join them at the bar. I declined, out of respect to the reverend gentleman in whose presence I then was. As soon as the occasion had passed, I remarked to the reverend doctor: 'Do not understand that I decline to go and join those young men at the bar because I have any objections to that thing, for it is my habit to drink always in the front and not behind the door.' He looked at me with a certain degree of interrogation. I then asked him, 'Doctor, what was the first miracle worked by our great Master?' He hesitated, and I said to him, 'Was it not at Cana, in Galilee, where he converted the water into wine at a marriage feast?' He assented. I asked him then,' After the ark had floated on the tempestuous seas for forty days and nights, and as it descended upon the dry land, what was the first thing done by Father Noah ?' He said he did not know that exactly. Well,' said I, did he not plant a vine?' Yes, he remembered it then.
“I asked him, 'Do you remember any great poet that ever illustrated the higher fields of humanity that did not dignify the use of wine, from old Homer down?' He did not. I asked, 'Do you know any great philosopher that did not use it for the exaltation of his intelligence? Do you think, Doctor, that a man who lived upon pork and beef and corn-bread could get up into the superior regions-into the ethereal?' No, he must
«• Take nectar on high Olympus,
And mighty mead in Valhalla.' “I said to him again: 'Doctor, you are a scholarly man, of
a doctor of divinity, a graduate of Yale; do you remember Plato's Symposium ? Yes, he remembered that. I referred him to the occasion when Agatho, having won the
prize of Tragedy at the Olympic games at Corinth, on coming back to Athens was fêted by the nobility and aristocracy of that city, for it was a proud triumph to Athens to win the prize of Tragedy. They got together at the house of Phædrus, and they said, “Now, we have been every night for these last six nights drunk; let us be sober to-night, and we will start a theme, which they passed around the table as the sun goes round, or as they drank their wine, or as men tell a story. They started a theme, and the theme was love-not love in the vulgar sense, but love in the high sense-love of all that is beautiful. After they had gone through, and after Socrates had pronounced his judgment about the true and beautiful, in came Alcibiades with a drunken body of Athenian boys, with garlands around their heads to crown Agatho and crown old Socrates, and they said to those assembled : ‘This will not do; we have been drinking, and you have not; and after Alcibiades had made his talk in pursuance of the argument, in which he undertook to dignify Socrates, as I remember it, they required (after the party had agreed to drink, it being quite late in the evening, and they had finished their business in the way of discussion) that Socrates should drink two measures for every other man's one, because he was better able to stand it. And so, one after another, they were laid down on the lounges in the Athenian style, all except an old physician named Aristodemus, and Plato makes him the hardest-headed fellow except Socrates. He and Socrates stuck at it until the
of the morning, and then Socrates took his bath and went down to the groves and talked academic knowledge.
“ After citing this incident, I said to this divine: 'Do you remember that Lord Bacon said that a man should get drunk at least once a month, and that Montaigne, the French philosopher, indorsed the proposition ?'
“These exaltants that bring us up above the common measure of the brute-wine and oil-elevate us, enable us to seize
great facts, inspirations which, once possessed, are ours forever; and those who never go beyond the mere beastly means of animal support never live in the high planes of life, and can not achieve them.
“I believe in women, wine, whisky, and war.”
Let us not, with this curious specimen of his last ideas, judge harshly of James A. McDougall; let us rather sympathize with his weakness, and remember him for those qualities of heart and head which, with a little self-restraint, would have made him a shining light in the councils of the nation.
As showing how tranquillity and good temper promote happiness and long life, turn to the contrasting character of Gerritt Smith, of New York, who came into Congress with McDougall in 1853, and went out with him in 1855. Gerritt Smith was born in Utica, New York, March 6, 1797, and is therefore in his seventy-fifth year. He is living at Peterboro, New York, in fine health. I saw him several months ago in Washington, the picture of ripe, vigorous, well-preserved old age. The possessor of immense wealth, which he distributes with princely generosity, he delighted in gathering men of opposite opinions, and especially the Southern leaders, to his dinner parties. His handsome face and elegant manners, his kind heart, native wit, and graceful hospitality were made strangely attractive by the fact that he never allowed a drop of wine or liquor at his entertainments. Every thing else was in profusion, and it was amusing to hear the comments of those who never knew what it was to accept an invitation without anticipating copious draughts of champagne, sherry, or madeira. Bold and manly in his opposition to slavery in all its forms, a powerful speaker, a conscientious legislator, he mingled with the extreme men of the South like a friend. Combating what he believed to be their heresies, he extended as free a toleration to them as he demanded for himself. When he met McDougall first, the latter was one of the promising men in the nation; and I doubt not, when his
career was prematurely closed, no one mourned him more or made a more generous allowance for his frailties than Gerritt Smith, of New York.
[August 6, 1871.]
JOHN SLIDELL's death freshens a memory that ought to live forever-the memory of the short and last session of the Thirtysixth Congress—when the work of secession preceded the work of rebellion. What was said in those short three months would fill many volumes ;
what was done after them filled hundreds of thousands of graves. The defiance of Wigfall, now in a foreign land; the threats of Jefferson Davis, now utterly despised by his former followers; the prolonged plea for treason of Clingman, of North Carolina, now in safe obscurity; the vulgar abuse of Jim Lane, of Oregon, now utterly out of sight —were nothing to the speech of Senator Slidell, of Louisiana, on the 4th of February, 1861, after he presented the ordinance of secession adopted by the Legislature of that State. I allude to it, not by way of reproach, but to point the solemn moral of a tragedy which began with so many loud prophecies of success from the wrong-doers, and ended in such a complete catastrophe of their hopes and plans. A few passages will therefore be useful :
“We have no idea that you will ever attempt to invade our soil with your armies; but we acknowledge your superiority on the sea, at present, in some degree, accidental, but in the main natural and permanent, until we shall have acquired better ports for our marine. You may, if you will it, persist in considering us bound to you during your good pleasure ; you may deny the sacred and indefeasible right, we will not say of seces