Page images

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 rébellion. 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 never 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 Presi. dent 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




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?


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.]


In Theodore Parker's frank and sympathetic analysis of the character of George Washington, he speaks of his skill and good fortune in the selection and purchase of real estate, and his fine forecast of the destiny of Virginia and the West. In this respect Stephen A. Douglas resembled the Father of his Country. He had an inspiration for land, and he delighted to tell his friends what his country must be in the course of years, if our wilderness were opened up by wise and generous legislation. He had none of the small arts that would dwarf great enterprises by counting the profits of those who led in them. He justly believed that where there are large risks there should be large recompense. I remember-who of middle age does not ?-when the proposition made to tax the people of Philadelphia and the State for the construction of the Pennsylvania Central roused a hurricane of opposition. We were overwhelmed by sinister prophecies; and yet the seed sown by the success of that proposition has already produced a work which in another generation will carry the trade of the Orient through Philadelphia, and open to it a commerce with Europe infinitely greater than any ever dreamed of in our wildest aspirations. The Pennsylvania Central, like the Mississippi River, is fed by many branches, which it feeds in turn, and with its manifold tributaries capable of extending itself to all the nations of the South, giving wealth to them in bounteous supply, and receiving in exchange other riches and bounties. Had the bold, brave men who first pushed it failed, their reputations would have rotted in the category of the projectors who began other magnificent schemes in other centuries, and broke only because they were ahead of their time.

Stephen A. Douglas died too soon, for many reasons, and chiefly because, had he lived, he would have enjoyed the ripe



fulfillment of many of his predictions and labors. But I began this sketch rather to relate an incident illustrative of his kindness to his friends than of his extraordinary prescience in the matter of the development of the public domain.

He had, as I have said, the inspiration of the soil. To him I am indebted for my first and only speculation--the better to be recollected because it was successful. And the incident is the more interesting because, just now, the region where I made my money is the point whence one of those empire lines is going forth to penetrate the wilderness and to convert it into a garden-I mean the North Pacific Railroad. I suspect that the Civilizer and Christianizer Jay Cooke, who pioneers this mighty work, was nearly as poor a man as I was when Stephen A. Douglas came to me one day in 1853, and said, looking up at the map, "How would you like to buy a share in Superior City, at Fond du Lac, the head of Lake Superior?" and, before I could answer, he got on a chair and told me that from that point, or near it, would start the greatest railroad in the world, except the one on the thirty-second parallel, just surveyed by Captains George B. McClellan, John Pope, and others, which was to open up the South. “But,” I said, “old fellow, I have

. ' no money, and to buy a share in the proposed location will require much." "No," he replied, "I can secure you one for $2500, and you can divide it with —"naming one of the best of the future Confederates, “and he will be greatly obliged." I knew nothing of the location, had never been there, had no money of my own, but I saw Judge Douglas was in earnest and wanted to serve me, and when he left, I borrowed the $2500, bought a share, divided it with the Southern gentleman referred to, who honorably paid his $1250 ; and after cutting my share into five parts, sold and gave three fifths to other friends, and with my two fifths bought the Waverley House, in Washington. The proceeds of my moiety of the one share of Superior City realized $21,000. For that I was in

debted to Stephen A. Douglas-God bless him! I believe my Confederate friend has held on to his interest, and I shall be glad if he is as fortunate as I was. Duluth is now the fashion, and I wish it all success, because it can not grow rich without reflecting some of its wealth upon Superior City, its near neighbor.

In 1868, the Republicans of Pennsylvania, by a unanimous vote, put me at the head of their delegation to the Republican National Convention, to vote for General Grant as their candidate for President. The first thing I did, after getting to Chicago, was to go out to look on the monument to Stephen A. Douglas, on the shore of Lake Michigan; the next to visit the massive buildings of the Illinois Central Railroad Company, the enterprise which he alone carried through Congress. The monument was not complete, but the palatial edifices of the railroad were. I could not help it, but when I remembered how in Paris and London, just the year before, I had seen Illinois Central securities quoted among the consols of the oldest governments, and that that road was enriching all connected with it-I say I could not help, as I thought of these things, drawing the contrast between the vital and vigorous championship of Douglas of this stupendous work and the studied neglect of his memory by those who have profited by it. After passing through the magnificent dépôt and the adjacent buildings, I said to an employé,“Who owns the most stock in the Illinois Central ?" "Indeed, I do not know, sir," was his reply. “Well, my friend, I think the man who ought to own the most of it, and whose children should be most benefited by it, was Stephen A. Douglas.” I think the man may have heard of Douglas, but it was clear to me, from his look, that he thought I was a lunatic.

[January 29, 1871.]

« PreviousContinue »