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" MAZEPPA” QUOTATION.
of satisfaction on the other. The event was naturally most distasteful to President Buchanan, crowning as it did a long and gloomy procession of disasters. On the evening of that Friday a large number of my personal friends met at Mr. John F.Coyle's, whose guest I was, on Missouri Avenue, to celebrate the event. Among these were many Southerners, and some who had voted against me only a few hours before. As I count over their names, I find that not a few have since been entered on the books of death. Schwartz, Burlingame, Pennington, Eliot, Stevens, have passed away. They were all present. The usual speeches common to such occasions were fired off; the old songs were sung—"John Brown” had not yet become popular—the old jokes repeated. When my time came, I spoke some grateful words to the large crowd in the streets and the hilarious company in the rooms. It was fair poetical justice to remind the Administration of their persecution of the men who had resisted Lecompton, and of the vindication of these men by the people in the elections; and as I stood out on the balcony I thought of the famous lines of Lord Byron in “Mazeppa :"
"They little thought, that day of pain,
When launched, as on the lightning's flash,
They bade me to destruction dash,
With twice five thousand horse, to thank
They played me then a bitter prank,
They bound me to his foaming flank.
At length I played them one as frank,
And if we do but watch the hour,
There never yet was human power
The patient watch and vigil long
Of him who treasures up a wrong.” But, like many an unfortunate in a similar situation, the whole
stanza escaped my memory, and I could only refer to it. James S. Jackson, of Kentucky, one of the bravest and best men I ever knew, stood at my side, and I asked him, sotto voce, to help me out. “Remember it yourself, you infernal Black Republican,” was his quick reply, and I finished my remarks as best I could. Jackson was elected to Congress from his State as a Union man in 1861, and before the expiration of his term raised a regiment of Kentucky volunteers, and was killed in the battle of Perryville in 1862. Mr. Lincoln had just made him a brigadier-general. He died too soon. Nature had been prodigal of her gifts to Jackson. To a face of singular, almost feminine beauty, was added the graceful form of an athlete and the manners of a Chesterfield. He took the right side in a community tainted with wrong views. It would have been far easier for him to have followed his intimate friends Breckinridge, Hawkins, and Preston into the Confederate service, and it was a hard struggle to differ with them, but he did it bravely, preserving their love in life, and calling out their manly sorrow over his gallant death.
At the risk of talking a little more about myself than I care to do, I venture to reproduce the following from the speech of Hon. John B. Haskin, of New York, on that memorable evening:
“A short time ago the New York Herald had, at the instigation of Mr. Buchanan, as he knew, revived the Forrest letter, and had suggested that it be read from the Clerk's desk when Forney was nominated. Singularly enough, this had not been done, but, expecting that it would be, Colonel Forney had addressed him a letter in relation to this famous Forrest letter, so much misconstrued. He would have read this letter in the House, but there was no necessity for it. He would now read it, however, as he knew those present would like to hear it. The following is the letter:
THE FORREST LETTER.
“"WASHINGTON, Feb. 1, 1860. “My Dear Sir, I need not repeat to you that my name has been associated with the position of Clerk of the House, rather through the partiality of kind friends like yourself than because of any efforts of my own to become a candidate. I have importuned no single Representative for his vote. In the present condition of politics I have preferred to let events take their course, so far as I am concerned, maintaining the position I have held for the last two years of uncompromising hostility to the proscriptive and shameless policy of the present Administration of the General Govern. ment, and of hearty co-operation with all men who look to the overthrow of that Administration, its advocates and its indorsers. I have been informed, however, that, if my name should be presented to the House, an issue is to be made on account of a letter which I wrote nearly ten years ago, in connection with the case of Mr. Edwin Forrest. I had hoped that no one would be found willing to make this act of devotion to a cherished, and, as I believed, deeply injured friend, the pretext of an assault upon my reputation. If in writing this letter I committed an error, I only became conscious of it when I saw how it could be misconstrued ; and, if I needed any assurances that this error had been overlooked, I had it in my re-election to the Clerkship of the House in 1853, in the unanimous indorsement of my conduct by members of all parties of that body after I had presided over the deliberations of the House in the stormy struggle of 1855 and 1856, in my nomination, by the Democrats of the Pennsylvania Legislature, as their candidate for United States Senator in 1857, and in the repeated voluntary tenders of distinguished official position by the present President of the United States, who has not permitted the recollection of my many years of championship of his aspirations to outweigh the fact that I could not conscientiously follow him in his abandonment and violation of the pledges and principles upon which alone he was chosen Chief Magistrate. I will not imitate the example set by his personal organ, the New York Herald, in making the revelation of a private letter a matter of public discussion. If I could sink so low, I might find additional evidence of the fact, over his own name,
that my connection with the Forrest case never deprived me of a particle of his confidence and affection, which up to a certain period he so freely and so flatteringly bestowed upon me.
“You can make any use of this note you see proper. Should the House elect me Clerk, I will accept the office and discharge the duties in the spirit in which it is conferred. Should the result be otherwise, my position will remain unchanged. I have tried the experiment of conducting an independent journal against all the office-holding power of the Federal Govern
ment, and I will not surrender my relation to that enterprise whether I gain or lose the position with which my name has been once more associated.
"Yours, very truly, J. W. FORNEY. "Hon. JOHN B. HASKIN.'
A curious sequel to this same evening happened while I was in London in May of 1867. I was invited to a club of young Englishmen who had been the pronounced friends of our Union during the war. Mr. Benjamin Moran, the accomplished Secretary of the American Legation, kindly accompanied me, and introduced me to most of those present. One gentleman was especially cordial, Lord Frederick Cavendish, second son of the Duke of Devonshire. I found him an advanced Liberal, and very pleasant and intelligent. As we sat smoking together on the sofa, he turned to me and said : “By-the-way, I heard you make a very fiery speech on a very cold night in Washington, in the early winter of 1860. It was from the window or balcony of a house on Missouri Avenue." I looked at him with surprise, when he laughingly said: “I lived in Washington for some time as a member of the British embassy, and felt an interest in the Democratic dissensions. When you were elected Clerk, myself and two friends took a carriage, and, expecting a speech, rode to your lodgings, and we were well rewarded even for the cold we endured among the outside audience." It was a pleasant and a curious reminiscence, and as such I record it in these hasty sketches.
[February 26, 1870.]
The public man with a reputation for wit is apt to become responsible for all the best jokes, old and new. Many a Joe Miller was and is still credited to Thaddeus Stevens and Abra
ham Lincoln. Things they never said, now that both are gone, are boldly laid upon their memories. But no two men, perhaps, so entirely different in character, ever threw off more spontaneous jokes. Mr. Stevens rarely told a story. He was strong in repartee, in retort, in quiet interrogatory. He must have been terrible at the cross-examination of a witness. There is nothing finer, as I think, in the annals of humor than his quaint questions to David Reese and John Chauncey, the two officers of the House who in his last days used to carry him in a large arm-chair from his lodgings across the public grounds up the broad stairs of the noble Capitol—“Who will be so good to me and take me up in their strong arms when you two mighty men are gone?" Here was not only uncommon wit, but a sense of intellectual immortality. A consciousness of superiority of another sort was his answer to John Hickman, who called as Stevens laid on his bed, when he felt the grip of the grim messenger fastening on him. Hickman told the old man he was looking well. “Ah, John!" was his quick reply, “it is not my appearance, but my disappearance, that troubles me.” A member of the House who was known for his uncertain course on all questions, and who often confessed that he never fully investigated a mooted point without finding himself a neutral, asked for leave of absence. “Mr. Speaker,” said Stevens, "I do not rise to object, but to suggest that the honorable member need not ask this favor, for he can easily pair off with himself.” He was charitable, but never ostentatiously so. “Oh, sir!" said a beggar woman to him one cold morning as he was limping to the House, “Oh, sir ! I have just lost all the money I had in the world.” “And how much was that?” “Oh, sir ! it was seventy-five cents.” “You don't say so," was the old man's answer, as he put a five-dollar bill into her hands; " and how wonderful it is that I should have just found what you had lost !"
Shortly after I was elected Clerk of the House, in 1860, a