Page images



with its foaming steeds at Slaymaker's old hotel, on East King Street, and began to throw off the mails, while the passengers alighted, thirsty, hungry, and covered with dust. It was the event of the day. Repeated at every other station and in every other town, it was one of a thousand similar pictures in other States and countries. Old England's great highways were made jocund with post-chaises, fast horses, daring drivers, uniformed guards, and jolly passengers. It was a favorite amusement for the nobility to mount the box and hold the reins with four in hand, and to course along the level roads, excelling in feats of daring drivership. They were as ambitious to lead in this sort of exercise as their descendants are in boat and foot races, in pugilistic encounters, and general gymnastics. Of these scenes the central figure was always the inn-keeper, who did not hold it beneath his dignity to stand in his doorway, engirthed in his white apron, to "welcome the coming and speed the parting guest." That class is nearly extinct, though happily not forgotten. The old-fashioned publican aspired to be a gentleman, and was generally the associate of gentlemen, a connoisseur of wines, a judge of horse-flesh, a critical caterer, and in politics so unexceptionally neutral that, when the probable votes of a town were estimated, it was generally "so many Whigs, so many Democrats, and so many tavern-keepers." These Sir Roger De Coverleys-for they were men of substance and hospitable to the extreme-have given way to a generation as different as the Conestoga wagon differs from the locomotive, the old stage-driver from the car-conductor, the railroad director from the stockholder of the turnpike company. They are the dilettanti of the hotels, and, like the Pontiff's robe, rarely seen and much wondered at. Living in gorgeous private residences, away from the splendid palaces which bear their names, they in fact vicariously feed, room, and care for more human beings in one day than the men of the past did in six months. One of these men was John Guy, who may be called

the hero of three cities-known alike in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, though better appreciated in Baltimore. Born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, I believe, he was the founder of a family of unrivaled hotel-keepers. He still lives in Guy's, on Seventh Street, Philadelphia, now in course of rehabilitation, and soon to expand into an ostentatious establishment on the European plan, and in the unequaled Monument House, nearly opposite Barnum's, in Baltimore. When I think of him I think also of Dorrance and Pope Mitchell of the United States Hotel, of Joseph Head of the Mansion House on Third Street, of Dunlap of the City Hotel, of Hartwell of the Washington House, and Jones of the old Jones Hotel, in Philadelphia; of Gadsby in Washington, Stetson of the Astor House, in New York, and many, many more. There is not a State in the Union, north or south, which could not furnish anecdotes of its representative inn-keepers, of their relations to public men-to Calhoun in South Corolina, to Webster in Massachusetts, to Clay in Kentucky, to Sergeant S. Prentiss in Mississippi, to George D. Prentice in Louisville, and to the lawyers, divines, and orators who for half a century dominated in those sections. If these Bonifaces could have kept records of their experience, what anecdotes they could relate of the giants of the past, of their private troubles, their public ambitions, their contrivances and their caucuses, their friends and their foes! I knew many of them, and could relate many interesting incidents if I had space and time.

Let me recall one in regard to this same John Guy, sometimes told by my friend Dougherty, when we can win him to social familiarity and make him forget professional responsibilities. Guy bore a striking resemblance to General Lewis Cass, and while he was proprietor of the National Hotel, in Washington, the Michigan Senator was among his favored guests. Guy dressed like Cass, and although not as portly, his face, including the wart, was strangely similar. One day a Western friend




of the house came in after a long ride, dusty and tired, and, walking up to the office, encountered General Cass, who was quietly standing there. Mistaking him for Guy, he slapped him on the shoulder, and exclaimed, "Well, old fellow, here I am; the last time I hung my hat up in your shanty, one of your clerks sent me to the fourth story; but now that I have got hold of you, I insist upon a lower room.' The General, a most dignified personage, taken aback by this startling salute, coldly replied: "You have committed a mistake, sir. I am not Mr. Guy; I am General Cass, of Michigan," and angrily turned away. The Western man was shocked at the unconscious outrage he had committed; but before he had recovered from his mortification, General Cass, who had passed around the office, confronted him again, when, a second time mistaking him for Guy, he faced him and said, "Here you are at last. I have just made a devil of a mistake; I met old Cass and took him for you, and I am afraid the Michigander has gone off mad." What General Cass would have said may well be imagined, if the real Guy had not approached and rescued the innocent offender from the twice-assailed and twiceangered statesman.

[August 27, 1871.]


PARALLELS or contrasts of character are the most useful of biographies. They are like studies of different pictures placed side by side. Take Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. Lincoln was almost untrained in statecraft. He had been postmaster of a little town, had served four successive terms in the Legislature of Illinois, and one in Congress; was the only Whig from Illinois from 1847 to 1849, taking his seat just as Douglas

took his in the Senate. Looking through the debates, we find Lincoln among the most modest of members. His utterances were forcible and few. It is easy to detect the quaint humor that figured so prominently in his after actions, but there was no frequency or ostentation of speech. In the same body sat Andrew Johnson, the Democratic head of the delegation from Tennessee. Less than two years older than Lincoln, his motions, measures, and spoken opinions would cover a hundred times the space allotted to his Illinois contemporary. Six years in the State Legislature, ten years in Congress, four years Governor, five years United States Senator, with several intermediate positions, he was constantly aspiring to a higher station. How significantly the huge library of Andrew Johnson's talk compares with the little casket of Lincoln's ideas! The loudness and length of the one, the brevity and silence of the other. These two men were alike in one thing only: in the obscurity of their origin and in the hard toil of their early lives. In every other respect they were opposites. I will not imitate the sad business of impugning or doubting motives. Let us hope that both were honest, as indeed the just judgment of all classes and writers now concedes Abraham Lincoln to have been. But how differently they used their weapons! Lincoln, without seeming to aspire, reached the highest station in the world; while Johnson, always reaching forth for the golden fruit, got it, and lost it in a fit of inconceivable madness. Abraham Lin coln died at the best moment for himself; Andrew Johnson lives to prove how great opportunities may be wasted.

In many respects Abraham Lincoln had few parallels. He was most considerate of the feelings and deservings of others. I have related how, before I ever saw or knew him, he wrote me a letter, directly after his election in 1860, thanking me for what he was pleased to call my services in resisting the proscriptions of the Buchanan Administration, and proffering a friendship which never abated. When the Baltimore Conven

[blocks in formation]

tion, which renominated him for President, was about to meet, and Mr. Hamlin declined being a candidate for Vice-President in order that the Democratic element might be represented, Mr. Lincoln personally advocated Andrew Johnson, and was backed by Mr. Seward, who was, however, interested in the defeat of Daniel S. Dickinson, pressed for the same post by his opponents in New York. Although Douglas defeated Lincoln for Senator in 1858, he gave him his confidence immediately after his inauguration, and never failed in generosity to his widow and children. When I was defeated for Clerk of the House in March, 1861, he called in person upon a number of Senators and asked them to vote for me for Secretary of that body. When Stonewall Jackson was killed, and one of my assistant editors spoke kindly of the better part of his character, Abraham Lincoln wrote me commending the tribute to a brave adversary. If you visited Lincoln he never wearied you with dreary politics or heavy theories, or glorified himself or his doings. In every crisis he sought the advice, not of his enemies, but of his friends. To his convictions he was ever true, but his opinions were always subject to revision. He delighted in parables, and especially in the rude jokes of the South and the West. He hailed Artemus Ward and Petroleum Nasby as benefactors of the human race, and no witticism, whether delicate or broad, escaped his keen appreciation. He was, withal, a man of sentiment, reading Shakespeare like a philosopher, and remembering the best passages. A little poem written by Francis De Haes Janvier, of Philadelphia, called "The Sleeping Sentinel," was an especial favorite; and "The Patriot's Oath" and "Sheridan's Ride," by Thomas Buchanan Read, were always recited at his request by Mr. Murdoch, whenever that loyal actor visited the metropolis. He was neither boisterous nor profane. He cared little for the pleasures of the table; and, al. though reared among a frontier people largely addicted to intoxicating drinks, he preferred water as a beverage. He liked

« PreviousContinue »