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to fit him for the post. This was the present General Daniel E. Sickles, then the prominent young leader of the Democracy of the Empire State. He was in his thirty-fourth year, in the flush of a full practice at the bar, and in the receipt of a large income at the head of the law department of the city. I said to him one day, “How would you like to be Secretary of Legation under Mr. Buchanan, the new Minister to London?” “What's the pay?” “Twenty-five hundred dollars a year.” “Why, bless you, my dear fellow, that would hardly pay for my wine and cigars. My annual income is fifteen times more than that; I could not think of such a sacrifice.” But the next day he thought better of it. A year or two at the British Court, with opportunities to see Paris and the Continent, began to be attractive to him, and he said he would give up his splendid business for the time and go. He had never seen Mr. Buchanan, and the latter only knew him as a brilliant lawyer, politician, and man of the world, who had a host of friends and not a few enemies, like all men of force and originality. I wrote to Wheatland, announcing that Mr. Sickles would accept the post, and that he would call on him in a day or two. The veteran statesman was most favorably impressed, and nominated Sickles as his Secretary of Legation. Sickles did not belong to the Marcy wing of the party in New York, and the ancient Secretary of State stoutly objected to his appointment; but General Pierce interposed, and the new Secretary of Legation got his commission. I was, of course, anxious to know how the bright and daring youngster got on with the staid old bachelor, and at last I heard from the latter something like this: "Your Secretary of Legation is a pleasant companion, but he writes a very bad hand, and spends a great deal of money.” And again: “Sickles writes as bad a hand as you do, but I find him a very able lawyer, and of great use to me." They got on very well, though not without some amusing experiences. One is worth referring to, and I wish my readers could hear General
AN ENGLISH TAVERN-BILL.
Sickles tell it in his own inimitable way. The American legation, including the ladies, were invited to dine with a person of high rank, a duchess, residing near London, and they proceeded in their carriages to her residence. Their coachmen and other attendants, under the direction of General Sickles, drove back to the little inn hard by, to feed their horses and take care of themselves till the hour for the return of the party; and the young secretary told them to have “a good time.” On the return of the legation Mr. Buchanan ordered the carriages to stop at the English inn, that he might pay the bill of mine host, who soon appeared with his “little claim.” It was a startling array of charges for all sorts of delicacies, including a full English dinner, with “the materials," and amounted to five pounds, or $25. “Five pounds!" exclaimed Old Buck in amazement; “I never heard of such a thing in all my life.” “Let me pay the bill,” said Sickles, in his cool way; "I told the boys to enjoy themselves, and I am to blame.” “No, sir," was the severe reply, “I will pay it myself, and will keep it as a souvenir of English extortion and of your economy. Why, my dear sir, do you know I could have got just as good a dinner for twenty-five cents apiece at John Michael's, sign of 'The Grapes,' in my own town of Lancaster, as this man has charged a pound a head for? No, sir; I will keep this bill as a curiosity of its kind, an autograph worthy of historical mention.” The incident marked the difference between the men-the open-hearted generosity of the Secretary and the exact business habits of the Minister.
Some men crowd a year into a month ; others vegetate in aimless and eventless routine. Some give a life to the collection of coins and insects; others are happy in the study of old pictures, or busy themselves in figuring how to pay off the national debt, or lose themselves in vainly seeking for perpetual motion; and one of the best I know spends most of his days in collecting autographs, and especially in filling books with the original letters and photographs of certain characters, so that when he dies he may be remembered as the owner and compiler of volumes of which there can be no copies or duplicates.
But here is one still in his prime—he was fifty last Octoberwhose career has been as diversified and romantic as if he had filled out a full century of endless action. He was a printer before he read law; was a member of the New York Assembly when he was twenty-six; a State Senator when he was thirty-five; then Secretary of Legation at London, where he met and mingled with the best minds; afterward two terms in Congress; an early volunteer against the rebellion, losing his leg at Gettysburg in 1863; then one of the chief agents as Military Governor in the reconstruction of North and South Carolina ; and now American Minister to the Spanish Court. I do not refer to the saddest
page of his experience save to prove that he has outlived it, nor yet to his intermediate labors as orator, journalist, advocate, and counselor. He is what one might call a lawyer by intuition; careful in reaching his conclusions, but quick and bold in pushing them; as a speaker, incisive, clear, and logical ; as a controversialist, cool and wary. His recent coup d'état against the Erie ring would alone make any man famous. Few characters in our country, or in our history, have passed through so many ordeals. Tried for his life, hunted by fierce and desperate foes, tabooed under a relentless though temporary ostracism, periling his life in battle, and saving it only at the cost of a fearful mutilation, he survives to teach to his countrymen the lesson beautifully set forth in his speech on the 2d of October, 1868, from the portico of the Union League of Philadelphia, and now most worthy of reproduction:
“I see thousands and thousands of men, formerly of the Democratic party, who have determined no longer to be ruled by it; and if the Democratic party determine not to see the future that shall lead them to a better course, the Union party of this country will illumine the path that will lead them to a better conclusion. No disloyal party can ever gain control of this
country. As well might George III. again stretch his long hand to seize the starry coronet of the Colonies; as well might the Mohawks, the Cherokees, and the Mohicans claim again their lost hunting-grounds, or attempt to drive back civilization to the sea, as that old slave dynasty ever again attempt to resume sway in this land of justice and loyalty."
[April 21, 1872.]
CONGRESSIONAL habits and manners have changed with the times, and the change is marvelous. In fact, social life at the nation's capital has itself been revolutionized. If you look down from the galleries of the two houses, or step into the old Senate Chamber, now the Supreme Court-room, you will see how thorough is the revolution. Colored men in Congress, colored men before the highest judicial tribunal, also colored men in the local courts, deliberate and practice without insult or interruption. In 1857-58 a white man could not safely advocate ordinary justice to a black man. He was subjected to inconceivable obloquy, not alone in the Legislatures, but in society. Nothing but illustrious services or great moral courage secured decent toleration to such an offender. The Southern leaders were models of politeness till their peculiar institution was touched. Then the mask was dropped, and arrogance expelled all courtesy. Nobody who did not agree with them was invited to their houses, and, as they controlled the Administration, of whatever party, the few anti-slavery men had to live among themselves. Now all is changed. Men meet together and discuss politics like philosophers. Go to one of Fernando Wood's great parties, and you find people of all opinions. Look in upon one of Charles Sumner's unequaled dinners, and you
see him surrounded with Democrats like Thurman, of Ohio, and Casserly, of California. Call on brave Ben Butler at one of his receptions, and note among his guests many whom he has most steadily antagonized. When Thaddeus Stevens lived, his most intimate companion at whist and euchre was the venerable John Law, the distinguished Democrat from the Indianapolis district. But in nothing is the change more marked than in the manners of the two houses. First is the evident absence of public dissipation—that fruitful source of evil during the old slave régime. You do not see men inflamed by bad whisky seeking quarrels with their associates. The night is no longer made hideous by personal altercations. The bowie-knife, the pistol, the bludgeon, lie buried in the grave with secession and State rights. There are lively disputes, of course; Butler and Sunset Cox indulge in an occasional passage; Schurz and Carpenter exchange repartee; and now and then Mr. Vorhees flies his eagles with angry and fervid declamation; but there are no hostile messages, no clandestine consultations, no summonses to Bladensburg or Canada. The shots that are fired are harmless; the swords are air-drawn; the fierce charges explode in fruitless investigations. A colored member is listened to by respectful houses, and silent if not responsive auditors; and the extremest Democrat, even from the South, yields a hearing and a reply to a man like Benjamin Sterling Turner, the Representative in Congress from Selma, Alabama, who was born a slave and is now a freeman. How wonderful is the decay of prejudices that seemed to be eternal! Is this the Capitol in which Sumner fell under the blows of Brooks ? From which John Quincy Adams was sought to be expelled for words spoken in debate? In which Toombs thundered, Keitt lightninged, and Wigfall threatened?
And as I turn from this profound lesson, and look over the fair city as it stretches before me from the west windows of the Congressional Library-in which I notice colored men and