Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

traitors who have been kicked from the fellowship of decent society; and it suits the old enemies of the Democratic cause, because they hope by it to break down that fortress which they have been accustomed to find so vigilantly guarded and so impregnable in many a hard-fought battle.

CHAPTER VII.

A COMMISSIONER. - A LEGISLATOR IN HOUSE AND SENATE.

ON STUMP IN 1856 AND 1860.

1856-1861.

In April, 1856, Walter Harriman, of New Hampshire, James H. Relfe, of Missouri, and William Spencer, of Ohio, were appointed by President Pierce as a board of commissioners “to classify and appraise Indian lands in Kansas Territory.” Certain lands, in area about equal to half the State of New Hampshire, had been obtained of the Indians by purchase, and the price to be paid was to be determined by this board.

Mr. Harriman went to Washington to receive instructions, and thence proceeded by rail to Iowa City. From that place to Council Bluffs, a distance of three hundred miles, he journeyed by stage, over roads as bad as April mud could make them; the stage running day and night, and stopping only for meals, or for change of horses. One night, about ten o'clock, as the coach was rolling along over the open prairie, a wild thunder-storm moved up from the west, bringing "utter darkness," but for the lightning flashes that intermittently revealed the way. The driver, from fear of accident, dared not proceed. Telling the passengers, seven men, one woman, and a child — to remain as they were till morning, he took the horses from the coach, and hurried them off, a mile or two, to the nearest building — an old log shed. The storm was a terrific one, lasting all night. The lightning was fearfully vivid ; the thunder, as it rolled over those lonely plains, was awfully grand; the rain was a flood, rushing down like an avalanche. But the storm was over at last, and the morning came; the coach

[ocr errors]

moved on, and the passengers rejoiced that the fearful night had passed away.

Mr. Harriman crossed the Missouri River from Council Bluffs to the infant city of Omaha, hoping to find navigation open for a trip down to Leavenworth, where the commissioners were directed to meet. But boats not yet having commenced running for the season, he went back to the Bluffs, and taking a stage on the east side of the river, proceeded to St. Joseph, Mo., and thence by steamer to Leavenworth, where he awaited the coming of the other members of the commission. The “Kansas Weekly Herald” of May 10, 1856, contained the following announcement of his arrival :

“Hon. Walter Harriman, of Concord, N. H., one of the three commissioners to appraise the Delaware, Iowa, and Wea lands, arrived in our city on Tuesday morning last. He came through Iowa, and by way of Omaha City, N. T., thence down the river to this place. He visited us in our office, and we had the pleasure of forming his acquaintance. He is a very intelligent, affable, and courteous gentleman. He has been met with a pleasant reception from our citizens. We can venture to indorse him as a gentleman of enlarged views and liberal sentiments, and in the exercise of his duties will give satisfaction to the government and the squatters.

He will reflect honor upon himself, and do credit to all concerned."

The commissioners carefully examined the whole country which they had to appraise, traveling by carriage, on horseback, or on foot. They sought entertainment with such white people as could be found, and with the “redskins," who were more numerous.

Often, from lack of better lodgment, they bivouacked on the open prairie. They were once handsomely entertained “in the field” by men of Colonel Sumner's regiment, who were out in that region to keep the peace in those “border-ruffian " days, the days of that "reign of terror" which the repeal of the Missouri Compromise had brought upon Kansas. Sometimes the commissioners slept in the “block-houses," into which the settlers, - immigrants from the North, men, women, and children, — from many miles around, were wont to come armed for defense, not against Indians, but against the more cruel minions of proslavery violence. The woeful difficulty of founding a free State in free America, - a sad historic anomaly, indeed, was then a present bitter experience, nay, a bloody. All was disorder and distress; raids, robberies, burnings, murders ruled the day.

There were three tracts of land to be appraised by the commissioners : one lying in the centre of Kansas, one along the Nebraska line, and one in the southern part of the Territory. Certain settlements had been unlawfully made upon these lands before the treaties with the Indians had been concluded. One of these was Leavenworth City with its three thousand inhabitants; and the commissioners were charged with the delicate task of making a price for the homes of these three thousand people! Settlers already on the ground, as well as all subsequent buyers, had to pay in accordance with the appraisal made by this board. The duties of the commission were well done: no complaint was ever made ; no bribery or corruption of any kind was ever charged. The government, the settlers, and the Indians — the last speaking through their agents — were all satisfied. Mr. Harriman saw fine opportunities in that region to gain wealth in legitimate ways, and he was strongly importuned to settle there; but there could be no true home for him away from New England. And he felt to say of New Hampshire, as Cowper said of England :

“With all thy faults, I love thee still.” 1 He completed his services on the commission in the autumn of 1856, and took the opportunity to engage somewhat in the national campaign of that year, which resulted in the election of James Buchanan to the presidency, over John C. Frémont, the first presidential candidate of the newly organized Republican party. Of Mr. Harriman's

1 He used to say with a playful exaggeration, that forcibly expressed, however, his devoted attachment to his State : “New Hampshire is the only State fit to live, die, and be buried in."

efforts upon the stump, in that contest, the most notable were those in Michigan, where he traveled with General Lewis Cass, and addressed large meetings in favor of “ Buck and Breck."

In April, 1857, Mr. Harriman, accompanied by his wife and three children, went to Iowa for a long summer visit. Returning in August, he purchased for a pleasant home a small farm on the Plain in Warner comprising twenty acres and furnished with handsome buildings. He bought on credit, as he had been investing money elsewhere. At the time of his going West, money was in great demand there, and borrowers were paying rates of interest running as high as thirty per cent. annually. He took all the property that he had on earth at that time, which was not much, borrowed a thousand dollars more on his bare name, and loaned it all in Iowa and Minnesota.

The financial crash of 1857-8-9 came, and he felt himself fortunate in not suffering a total loss. Creditors beginning to feel insecure, and to press for payment, he, to obtain relief, went in November, 1860, to the West, where he had planted his money. Fortune favored to some extent. To be sure, he got no thirty per cent., nor even ten per cent. interest; but he found there a large money-lender from Vermont, who already had large interests in the West. With this man he went to his debtors, and agreed to deduct whatever interest had accrued above six per cent., and to accept payment in full on that basis. This proposition was satisfactory to the borrowers; and the Vermonter, taking the same security that Mr. Harriman had held, paid him his money. This course was taken with all his investments in Minneapolis and other parts of Minnesota.

On this trip, in going from Rochester, Minn. (which was the end of public conveyance), down into Howard County, Iowa, Mr. Harriman, being in “light marching order," walked. One very cold morning he came into the village of Chatfield, and entering a hotel found five or six men sitting about a roaring fire. Hitching round they gave him a chance to be seated, and the following conversation ensued :

« AnteriorContinuar »