« AnteriorContinuar »
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
STEPHEN A. DOUGLAS.
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.]
Many of our public men are capital amateur editors. Thomas H. Benton was a valuable and vigorous contributor to The Globe in the war upon the United States Bank. His style was trenchant and elevated, and his facts generally impregnable. James Buchanan was a frequent writer in my old paper, The Lancaster Intelligencer & Journal, and in The Pennsylvanian. His diction was cold and unsympathetic, but exact, clear, and condensed. His precise and elegant chirography was the delight of the compositors. Judge Douglas wrote little, but suggested much. His mind teemed with “points.” I never spent an hour with him which did not furnish me with new ideas. He grasped and understood most questions thoroughly. When he read was always a mystery. Social to a degree, dining out almost daily when not entertaining his friends at his own hospitable home, visiting strangers at their hotels, leading in debate or counseling in committee, he was rarely at fault for a date or a fact. He was a treasure to an editor, because he possessed the rare faculty of throwing new light upon every subject in the shortest possible time. Ex-Attorney-General J. S. Black would have made a superb journalist, and was a ready and useful contributor. His style was terse, fresh, and scholarly. Caleb Cushing is another statesman who once delighted in editorial writing, and still occasionally varies his heavy professional toil by the same agreeable relaxation. I have known him to stand up to his tall desk and dash off column after column on foreign and domestic politics, on art, on finance, with astonishing rapidity and ease. Unlike his aggressive successor, General Cushing is anxious to end his career at peace with all the world. It is said that he is now receiving more money for legal services than any man in his profession. Of course his labors are heavy, but he lightens them by his calm and cheer
ful philosophy, his cultivated literary tastes, and his love of the society of the tolerant and refined.
Writing of Thomas H. Benton recalls an incident that happened during the Presidency of James K. Polk, when Mr. Buchanan was Secretary of State. Colonel Benton was a sharp thorn in the side of the Administration on the Oregon question. His criticism was merciless, and stung the President and his premier to the quick. Accordingly The Pennsylvanian was called upon to review his positions, which was done in three articles that bore, he thought, distinct official ear-marks. Indignant at my temerity, he addressed me a curt note, demanding the name of the author of the articles and threatening a Senatorial investigation. I responded by assuming the whole responsibility, and took the train for Washington to anticipate and watch events. I quartered, as usual, with Mr. Buchanan, and there waited for the summons. None came, however. Just before returning to my post in Philadelphia I was invited to a reception at the British Minister's, and in one of the currents of the throng was carried into a corner where they were serving out the seductive compound known as Roman punch. I had hardly got a glass of it in my hand when I found myself in the presence of Colonel Benton. He greeted me kindly, and as we enjoyed our punch he quietly remarked," I got your letter, but I did not proceed because I know you assumed the responsibility that belonged to another.” It is needless to add that the Secretary of State was as much relieved as I was by the majestical Missouri Senator.
Although Buchanan and Benton never were intimate friends, the latter went to Cincinnati in 1856 to advocate Buchanan as the Democratic candidate for President, and supported him when nominated against his own son-in-law, General John C. Fremont. Nobody was more surprised than Buchanan himself. He knew that Benton disliked him as sincerely as he esteemed General Fremont. But the matter was easily explained. The