« VorigeDoorgaan »
did. S. S. Prentiss was not more easily, and scarcely more repeatedly, made the dupe of the imposter or professional sponge than was Mr. Douglas. It is said that the latter honored, to the last, even the drafts of Beau Hickman. It was not in his heart to say, even to him, as the late Governor Crawford of Georgia-his patience, and purse too, nearly exhausted—once said to a constant tease for "the loan of a little cash":"Here, take it, but quit living on your friends eternally; forage on the enemy for a while."
No man of his time had a stronger hold on the hearts of the young democracy of the country than Douglas. They deemed it a privilege to do homage before the altar where their great high-priest officiated. The charms of his social nature, so genial, so free, so attractive, so irresistible-won their attachment as strongly as his intellectual supremacy commanded their admiration, and his iron will challenged their respect. And, we incline to think, their impatient haste and imprudent zeal in pressing his nomination for the presidency in 1852, largely contributed to his defeat before the convention of 1856, when Mr. Buchanan was nominated. That he was entitled to it before Mr. Buchanan, or any one else—if able advocacy and efficient service in upholding the prime principles and live issues laid down in the platform adopted, entitled one to party recognition or reward-seemed to be clear enough. It was a mistake to bring him forward at all in 1852. He was young enough to wait; and by waiting, he might not have called down upon him the concentrated opposition of all the politicians who had been so long on the line. At least, they would not have been so unmistakably "put on notice "-as the lawyers say. They did combine against him. His unclouded dawn and splendid promise excited their envy, and drew upon him their united fire. Forewarned of his strength at Baltimore, they had four years wherein to marshal and muster their forces against him at Cincinnati. Nor was the time unimproved. Carpe diem was their common motto and watchword. They marshalled all their cohorts; and the unbroken phalanx defeated his nomination, when, we are persuaded, he was the
second choice (where he was not the first) of all the rank and file, except those under the absolute control of the old fieldofficers. And such a set of old field-officers! Most of them never had been fit for service at all; and many of the rest ought to have been put on the retired list, years beforewithout pension. But "Young America,"-too eager and too impetuous-forgot, for the time, that senility begets a fellow-feeling wondrous kind; that old men, of all callings and pursuits, commonly work together; that they little relish the notion of being pushed off the stage by the rising generation before their time; that a certain esprit de corps, which at once flatters their pride and feeds their vanity, prompts them to stand by an old comrade rather than promote the aspirations of a novus homo; and that when their own personal ambition is left without hope, it is some satisfaction to say: "Well, yes, I and the president served together for a series of years in Congress; I was among the first to discover his parts and advance his interest; he was my right-hand man in committee (the committee whereof I was chairman); our terms of personal intimacy were such that, I know, next to himself (for he was always ambitious, while I never was), he would sooner, today, see me president than any man in America." Such men could feel little sympathy for Pitt, when he fleshed his maiden sword in Walpole's sneer at “the atrocious crime of being a young man."
Popular leaders, generally, are good talkers. Douglas had wonderful colloquial talents. Had he possessed the affluence of scholarly acquisition and accomplishment which so much enhanced the charm of Sir James Mackintosh's conversational powers, it is hardly extravagant to say that he would have rivalled him as an entertaining and instructive talker. His excessive intellectuality kept his brain always on fire. All his resources of information, illustration, anecdote, wit, repartee were as readily called up in social colloquy, as were his powers of logic and eloquence when, inspired by large numbers, an absorbing topic and befitting occasion, he entranced listening senators. The American excelled the Scotchman in one quality-pretty essential to him who would,
omnium consensu, be prince of the coterie. Douglas' ear was quite as attentive as his tongue was ready; Sir James was not a patient listener; his tongue incessantly wagged in any company. Like Burke's, his mind was so full that it must find vent in talk.
What could be apter or more crushing than Douglas' unpremeditated reply to the Swedish ambassador at the Court of St. Petersburg, when the latter, in the course of conversation, so stoutly condemned the conduct of Captain Ingraham in the Koszta affair, and so absolutely denied the right of any government to naturalize the subject of another: "Your royal master, King Oscar, himself the son of a king, cannot deny that right without beforehand abdicating his throne; for he cannot have forgotten the fact, that his own father, Bernadotte, was a marshal of France, when, over the emphatic protest of Napoleon, he was naturalized by the Swedish government. He became king; Oscar, your master, is his son!" This argumentum ad hominem vanquished the ambassador-and, like the Pennsylvania Quaker, when the Texas "bully" gave him the lie, he prudently "waived the topic." And when the Russian nobleman rallied to the support of the nonplussed Swede, how readily did Douglas silence him by referring to the monument at Odessa, erected to the memory of the French Duke de Richelieu: "Your master, the czar, must tear down that beautiful monument before he dare deny the right of naturalization. Richelieu was a French exile whom Emperor Paul naturalized and made a Russian general; Alexander made him Governor of Odessa, and his subjects testified their gratitude to all by building that splendid monument." The nobleman "confessed judgment" and "paid costs" by ordering wine for the party. Douglas' sub-toast to Governor Cobb, at Senator Toombs' celebrated dinner party, given to the Georgia delegation in Washington, while on their way to the National Democratic Convention at Cincinnati, has become almost historic. Quite a number of magnates were present, among them some aspirants for the presidential nomination, Messrs. Cass, Douglas, Buchanan, Cobb, and others. When wit and wine had had their turn and the company were about to disperse,
Mr. James Gardner, chairman of the Georgia delegationhis glass full of sherry and his heart full of kindness-offered as a toast: "Gentlemen, may you all live to be President of the United States!" Douglas incontinently exclaimed: "Well, Cobb, here's a long life to you!"
We know not the authority for the statement we have seen made, that Mr. Douglas approved of the coercion policy of Mr. Lincoln respecting the seceded States. We believe it would be as hard to find as the grave of Moses. So firm and stalwart an advocate and defender of State sovereignty as he had ever been, could not have so totally changed his most cherished principles and blurred the proud and brilliant record of a lifetime. No man personally knew him more intimately, or sympathized more thoroughly with his political convictions and sentiments on that subject, than did Alexander H. Stephens. In his work on The War Between the States, Mr. Stephens says: "Either you are, or I am, greatly mistaken if you suppose Mr. Douglas ever took back or modified, in the slightest degree, a single phrase or word in the speech from which I have quoted (the speech of March 15th, 1861, in the United States Senate, advocating the withdrawal of the United States troops from Forts Sumter, Pickens, etc.). It is true, as I understand, that under the influence or impression, produced by the telegram to which you refer, purporting to give the substance of what Mr. Walker said on the occasion alluded to,* Mr. Douglas did advise Mr. Lincoln to convene Congress, and did approve of all proper steps being taken, for the defence of the Capitol against what he considered a threatened attack upon the Government of the United States, and a war of invasion. He did not, however, so far as I have ever seen, utter a word in modification of what he said as to the powers or duties of the president under the circumstances. He certainly did not give these measures I have been commenting upon, or the general policy of Mr. Lincoln, either before or
*It was telegraphed from Montgomery that Mr. Walker, the first Secretary of War of the Confederate States, had made a speech after the fall of Fort Sumter, in which he said, "the Confederate flag would float over the dome of the old Capitol at Washington before the first of May" 1861, and "eventually over Faneuil Hall itself."
* * *
after the events at Fort Sumter, his cordial endorsement or support. * He never could have held that Mr. Lincoln was obeying either the laws or the Constitution in the usurpations of power to which I have referred. In October, 1860, he did most emphatically endorse the Georgia platform of 1850, before at least twenty thousand freemen at Atlanta. This platform distinctly claimed the right, in the contingency of a breach of faith of the other confederates, to sever, in the last resort, every tie that bound her to the Union. This right he fully recognized. Mr. Douglas was no changeling in principles or opinions. Of all the men I ever knew, he was about the last who might have been expected to take back anything he had said. I knew him well for sixteen years. We went into Congress together, in December, 1843, and a more unyielding and inflexible man in his positions and matured opinions, I never met with."
In the course of his 15th of March speech, above alluded to-seven States having already seceded- Mr. Douglas, addressing the republican senators especially, used this language: "In my opinion we must choose, and that promptly, between one of three lines of policy: First, the restoration and preservation of the Union by such amendments of the Constitution as will ensure the domestic tranquillity, safety and equality of all the States, and thus restore peace, unity and fraternity to the whole country. Second, a peaceful dissolution of the Union by recognizing the independence of such States as refuse to remain in the Union, without such constitutional amendments, and the establishment of a liberal system of commercial and social intercourse with them by treaties of commerce and amity. Third, war, with a view to the subjugation and military occupation of those States which have seceded, or may secede, from the Union. I repeat, that, in my opinion, you must adopt and pursue one of these three lines of policy. The sooner you choose between them and proclaim your choice to the country, the better for you, the better for us, the better for every friend of liberty and constitutional government throughout the world. In my opinion, the first proposition is the best and the last the worst."