Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

PENNSYLVANIAN POLITICIANS.

63

son, Jackson's immediate friends, or Kitchen Cabinet; yet not less true is it that, when James K. Polk was chosen President in 1844, the venerable Jackson, then at the Hermitage, near Nashville, wrote a strong letter to his friend and neighbor, the new Chief Magistrate, recommending Mr. Buchanan for Secretary of State. George M. Dallas, of Pennsylvania, was chosen Vice-President on the same ticket with Mr. Polk. He, like Buchanan, was a standing candidate for the first office in the nation, and it may well be conceived that there was no love lost between the rivals and their friends. What reader of these sketches who lives in Pennsylvania does not remember those days ? Colonel James Page, Benjamin Harris Brewster, George W. Barton, Horn R. Kneass, Henry M. Phillips, Henry Simpson, William Badger, Ellis B. Schnable, and last, not least, Henry Horn, were among the leaders who fought under the respective banners of Dallas and Buchanan. The city of Philadelphia was the theatre of their bitter contests for

many years. But the great field of strife was Harrisburg. Simon Cameron, of Dauphin ; Reah Frazer and Benjamin Champneys, of Lancaster; Arnold Plumer, of Venango; Wilson McCandless, H. S. Magraw, and S. W. Black, of Alleghany; Henry D. Foster, of Westmoreland; Henry Welsh, of York; Morrow B. Lowry, of Erie; John Hickman and Wilmer Worthington, of Chester; John B. Sterigere, of Montgomery; Richard Brodhead and A. H. Reeder, of Northampton; C. L. Ward, David Wilmot, and Victor E. Piollet, of Bradford; W. F. Packer, of Lycoming ; Asa Packer, of Carbon—these and a host more, many since dead, stood forth to fight for these two men in the Democratic State Conventions with a devotion not usual in these more selfish times. The election of Dallas was a hard blow at our Buchanan side of the house; but J. B. was not easily baffled; and so, when we got Old Hickory to indorse him for Secretary of State, we felt that we had checkmated the Philadelphia favorite. And we were right, for no Vice-President was ever more ignored

than George M. Dallas-not even John C. Breckinridge, who fell under the suspicion of President Buchanan the moment he was nominated, and never fully recovered from it. Notwithstanding this, James Buchanan retained George M. Dallas as minister to England all through his rule, and thereby proved that if he could forget a friend he could also forgive a foe.

But to my anecdote. I heard Mr. Buchanan repeat it the last time at the Sunday dinner-table of John T. Sullivan, of Washington, one of the most interesting and genial of men, known and beloved alike at the nation's capital and in Philadelphia. He was a Democrat of the old school-a Jackson Democrat; was a Government director in the Bank of the United States with Peter Wager and Henry D. Gilpin ; and yet he was so cosmopolitan and catholic that every man of distinction was glad to receive and prompt to accept his invitations. Clay, Webster, Calhoun, Crittenden, Clayton, Silas Wright, Doctor Linn, Colonel Benton, Sam Houston, William C. Rives, Charles Jared Ingersoll, Edward Everett, Rufus Choate, frequently discussed public affairs over his roast beef, baked potatoes, and iced wines. I was a boy when first asked into this select circle, with its feast of reason and its flow of soul-its generous inaugural of soup, re-enforced by good wines, and supplemented, after dinner, by unforgotten punch, brewed by the hand of the good old man now in his grave. At one of these dinners I heard Old Buck repeat his story of General Jackson, probably for the hundredth time.

Shortly after Mr. Buchanan's return from Russia in 1834, to which he had been sent by President Jackson in 1832, and immediately following his election to the Senate of the United States by the Legislature of Pennsylvania, to fill the unexpired term of William Wilkins, resigned, who, in his turn, was sent to succeed Buchanan in the same foreign mission, Buchanan called upon Old Hickory with a fair English lady, whom he desired to present to the head of the American nation. Leaving her in the

[blocks in formation]

reception-room down stairs, he ascended to the President's private quarters and found General Jackson unshaved, unkempt, in his dressing-gown, with his slippered feet on the fender before a blazing wood fire, smoking a corn-cob pipe of the old Southern school. He stated his object, when the General said he would be very glad to meet the handsome acquaintance of the new bachelor Senator. Mr. Buchanan was always careful of his personal appearance, and, in some respects, was a sort of masculine Miss Fribble, addicted to spotless cravats and huge collars; rather proud of a small foot for a man of his large stature, and to the last of his life what the ladies would call “ a very good figure." Having just returned from a visit to the fashionable continental circles, after two years of thorough intercourse with the etiquette of one of the stateliest courts in Europe, he was somewhat shocked at the idea of the President meeting the eminent English lady in such a guise, and ventured to ask if he did not intend to change his attire, whereupon the old warrior rose, with his long pipe in his hand, and, deliberately knocking the ashes out of the bowl, said to his friend : “Buchanan, I want to give you a little piece of advice, which I hope you will remember. I knew a man once who made his fortune by attending to his own business. Tell the lady I will see her presently."

The man who became President in 1856 was fond of saying that this remark of Andrew Jackson humiliated him more than any rebuke he had ever received. He walked down stairs to meet his fair charge, and in a very short time President Jackson entered the room, dressed in a full suit of black, cleanly shaved, with his stubborn white hair forced back from his remarkable face, and, advancing to the beautiful Britisher, saluted her with almost kingly grace. As she left the White House she exclaimed to her escort, “ Your republican President is the royal model of a gentleman.”

[April 9, 1871.]

XIV.

SHORTLY after the return of Henry E. Muhlenberg from the court of Austria, to which he had been appointed minister by President Van Buren in 1838, I was invited by General Cameron to take a ride with him from Middletown to Reading, via Pottsville. It was in May of 1841 or '42, the loveliest spring month of the year. We took it leisurely, had a fine pair of horses and a comfortable carriage, and enjoyed the scenery, the weather, and the conversation of the people, with whom General Cameron was, even at that early day, on the most familiar terms. It was very pleasant to notice how intimately he understood the habits and history of the people of the whole country-side through which we passed-how, at intervals, he would stop the carriage, hail the passer-by, ask about his health, joke with him on politics, inquire after his wife, sons, and daughters by name, and enter into a familiar speculation as to the coming crops. I can not recall all the incidents of this delightful drive. There was no railroad in those days from Harrisburg to Lebanon and Reading, and none from Pottsville to Reading, so that after free and cordial intercourse with the politicians at John W. Weaver's old-fashioned hotel in Pottsville, we proceeded to the county seat of Berks, where the carriage was dismissed, as we had determined to go to Philadelphia by the Reading Railroad, which then terminated at that place. Calling upon Mr. Muhlenberg, we found him full of anecdotes of his over two years' residence at Vienna. His son and namesake Henry (who was elected a member of the Thirty-third Congress, in which body he only appeared a single day, having sickened with typhoid fever, from the effects of which he died on the 9th of January, 1854) had accompanied his father as Secretary of Legation, and was present on the occasion of our visit. General Cameron was an ardent partisan of Mr. Muh

HENRY E. MUHLENBERG.

67

lenberg, who was then a prominent candidate for Governor. As

my relations to Mr. Buchanan were close and intimate, and my preferences rather for Francis R. Shunk-the great rival of Mr. Muhlenberg-it was thought that my visit to the Berks County statesman would do much to control the delegates from my native county. I think I preserved a proper neutrality for so young a man-six years younger than Mr. Muhlenberg's son. We conversed freely about Europe and about his father's prospects. It will be recollected that James Buchanan was a candidate for President for more than twenty years before he attained that high position. He could not afford, therefore, to take part between the competitors for State offices, and it was primarily necessary that the delegates from his own county of Lancaster to the State convention should be divided between the two great men who were then contesting for the gubernatorial prize. I was particularly struck with the affable and cordial manners of Mr. Muhlenberg, and with the foreign graces imported into good old Berks by his brilliant and self-assured

We talked very little politics, but as the object was to make a good impression upon us, Mr. Muhlenberg directed the servant to open a bottle of Johannisberger (the wine celebrated for centuries, yet as utterly unknown to me as if it had been the nectar of the gods), and as he opened the cork he said : “This is the genuine article," the only wine of the kind that had ever come to America up to that period, “and was presented to me by the Emperor himself”-of whom it is historical justice to say that Mr. Muhlenberg, who was a thorough German scholar and a gentleman, was always a confidant and friend. When the cork was drawn, the aroma of the wine seemed to fill the room, and the first bottle was soon dispatched, when General Cameron, with his own peculiar manner, insisted on another, upon which Mr. Muhlenberg gayly remarked, "You shall have it, although it costs a great deal of money." The contest between Muhlenberg and Shunk will be remembered

son.

« AnteriorContinuar »