A Unique Story of a Marvellous Career. Life of Hon. Phineas T. Barnum, by Joel Benton.
Joel Benton

Part 7 out of 8

release her from her engagement with him, in event of the
marriage, she consented.

After the Commodore heard the news Mr. Barnum said to him:

"Never mind, Commodore; Minnie Warren is a better match for you
anyhow. She is two years younger than you, and Lavinia is older."

But the Commodore replied grandly; "Thank you sir, but I would
not marry the best woman living. I don't believe in women."

Barnum then suggested that he stand with Minnie, as groom and
bridesmaid, but he declined. A few weeks later, however, he told
Barnum that Tom Thumb had asked him to stand with Minnie, and
that he was going to do so.

"And when I asked you, you refused," said Barnum.

"It was not your business to ask me," said the Commodore
pompously, "when the proper person asked me, I accepted."

The approaching wedding was announced and created an immense
excitement. Lavinia's levees were crowded and she not
infrequently sold three hundred dollars' worth of photographs in
a day. The General was engaged to exhibit and his own photograph
was largely in demand. The Museum was so well attended, the daily
receipts being nearly three thousand dollars, that Barnum offered
them fifteen thousand dollars if they would postpone their
wedding for a month and continue the levees.

"No sir," said the General excitedly, "not for fifty thousand

"Good for you Charlie," said Lavinia, "only you should have said
one hundred thousand."

It was suggested to Barnum to have the wedding take place in the
Academy of Music and charge a good admission.

But Barnum refused.

Grace Church, at Broadway and Tenth St., was the scene of this
historic wedding, which occurred at noon of Tuesday, Feb. 10,
1863. Long before the hour designated the entire neighborhood was
thronged by expectant and smiling crowds awaiting the arrival of
the happy pair with their attendants, and looking with
ill-concealed envy upon the scores of carriages that bore to the
scene of action the fortunate possessors of cards of invitation.
At the entrance the ubiquitous Brown was to be seen, bland and
smiling, looking more like an honest Alderman of yore than a
sexton, and recognizing in each new deposit of youth or beauty or
wealth another star to shed lustre upon the extraordinary

Excellent police arrangements, no less than the self-respect and
decorum that always characterizes an American crowd, secured the
utmost quiet and order. The truth was that an outsider could only
have discovered the marriage to have been one of peculiar
interest from the snatches of feminine gossip that met the ear,
in which small-sized adjectives were profusely employed.

The church was crowded with a gay assemblage of ladies and
gentlemen, the former appearing in full opera costume, and the
latter in dress coats and white neck-cloths. In front of the
altar a platform three feet high covered with Brussels carpet had
been erected. Pending the arrival of the wedding cortege, Mr.
Morgan performed a number of operatic selections on the organ.

At high noon the murmuring of the swarming throng outside and the
turning of all heads townward presaged the arrival of the bridal
party; its undoubted arrival was announced by the arrival of
Barnum himself.

The bridal party quickly entered the church, and proceeding up
the middle aisle, took proper positions upon the platform.
Commodore Nutt acting as groomsman, and Miss Minnie Warren as

After several operatic performances on the organ, the marriage
services were commenced, the Rev. Dr. Taylor and the Rev. Junius
M. Willey officiating. The petite bride was given away by the
Rev. Mr. Palmer, at the request of her parents. Dr. Taylor
pronounced the marital benediction, when the party left the
church and were rapidly driven to the Metropolitan Hotel, the
street, stoops, buildings and windows in the neighborhood of
which were crowded with men, women and children.

At 1 o'clock the reception commenced, the bride and groom,
attended by the Commodore and Miss Minnie Warren, occupying a
dais in one of the front parlors. The crowd soon resolved into a
perfect jam, and for some time great confusion prevailed. After a
time, certain arrangements were made by which the company were
enabled to pay their respects to the little couple.

The graceful form of Mrs. Charles S. Stratton was shown to
advantage in her bridal robe, which was composed of plain white
satin, the skirt en traine, being decorated with a flounce of
costly point lace, headed by tulle puffings; the berthe to match.
Her hair, slightly waved, was rolled a la Eugenie, and
elaborately puffed in noeuds behind, in which the bridal veil was
looped: natural orange blossoms breathed their perfume above her
brow, and mingled their fragrance with the soft sighs of her
gentle bosom. Roses and japonicas composed a star-shaped bouquet,
which she held in her just-bestowed hand.

Her jewels consisted of diamond necklace, bracelets, earrings,
and a star-shaped ornament en diadem, with brooch to match.

Mr. Stratton was attired in a black dress coat and a vest of
white corded silk, with an undervest of blue silk.

The Commodore was similarly attired, and Miss Minnie Warren
appeared in a white silk skirt, with a white illusion overdress,
trimmed half way up the skirt with bouillonnes of the same
material, dotted with pink rosebuds. The corsage was decollete,
with berthe to match.

At 3 o'clock the bridal party left the reception room, and
retired to their private parlor, when the company soon after
dispersed. Upon leaving the hotel the guests were supplied with
wedding cake, over two thousand boxes being thus distributed. In
a parlor adjoining that used for the reception were exhibited the
bridal presents.

The jewelry and silverware were displayed in glass cases.

That night, at 10 o'clock, the New York Excelsior Band serenaded
the bridal party at the Metropolitan, when Mr. Stratton appeared
upon the balcony and made the following speech to the large
assemblage in front of the hotel:

"LADIES AND GENTLEMEN--I thank you most sincerely for this and
many other tokens of kindness showered upon me to-day. After
being for more than twenty years before the public, I little
expected at this late day, to attract so much attention. Indeed
if I had not become a family man I should never have known how
high I stood in public favor, and I assure you I appreciate
highly and am truly grateful for this evidence of your esteem and
consideration. I am soon off for foreign lands, but I shall take
with me the pleasant recollection of your kindness to-day. But,
ladies and gentlemen, a little woman in the adjoining apartment
is very anxious to see us, and I must, therefore, make this
speech, like myself, short. I kindly thank the excellent band of
music for its melody, the sweetness of which is only exceeded by
my anticipations of happiness in the new life before me. And now,
Ladies and Gentlemen, wishing you all health and happiness, I bid
you all a cordial good-night." [Applause.]

The following entirely authentic correspondence, the only
suppression being the name of the person who wrote to Dr. Taylor,
and to whom Dr. Taylor's reply is addressed, shows how a certain
would-be "witness" was not a witness of the famous wedding. In
other particulars the correspondence speaks for itself.


Sir: The object of my unwillingly addressing you this note is to
inquire what right you had to exclude myself and other owners of
pews in Grace Church from entering it yesterday, enforced, too,
by a cordon of police for that purpose. If my pew is not my
property, I wish to know it; and if it is, I deny your right to
prevent me from occupying it whenever the church is open, even at
a marriage of mountebanks, which I would not take the trouble to
cross the street to witness.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
W*** S***

804 BROADWAY, NEW YORK, Feb. 16, 1863.
MR. W*** S***

Dear Sir: I am sorry, my valued friend, that you should have
written me the peppery letter that is now before me. If the
matter of which you complain be so utterly insignificant and
contemptible as "a marriage of mountebanks, which you would not
take the trouble to cross the street to witness," it surprises me
that you should have made such strenuous, but ill-directed
efforts to secure a ticket of admission. And why, permit me to
ask, in the name of reason and philosophy, do you still suffer it
to disturb you so sadly? It would, perhaps, be a sufficient
answer to your letter, to say that your cause of complaint exists
only in your imagination. You have never been excluded from your
pew. As rector, I am the only custodian of the church, and you
will hardly venture to say that you have ever applied to me for
permission to enter, and been refused.

Here I might safely rest, and leave you to the comfort of your
own reflections in the case. But as you, in common with many
other worthy persons, would seem to have very crude notions as to
your rights of "property" in pews, you will pardon me for saying
that a pew in a church is property only in a peculiar and
restricted sense. It is not property, as your house or horse is
property. It vests you with no fee in the soil; you cannot use it
in any way, and in every way, and at all times, as your pleasure
or caprice may dictate; you cannot put it to any common or
unhallowed uses; you cannot remove it, nor injure it, nor destroy
it. In short, you hold by purchase, and may sell the right to,
the undisturbed possession of that little space within the church
edifice which you call your pew during the hours of divine
service. But even that right must be exercised decorously, and
with a decent regard for time and place, or else you may at any
moment be ignominiously ejected from it.

I regret to be obliged to add that, by the law of custom, you
may, during those said hours of divine service (but at no other
time) sleep in your pew; you must, however, do so noiselessly and
never to the disturbance of your sleeping neighbors; your
property in your pew has this extent and nothing more. Now, if
Mr. W*** S*** were at any time to come to me and say, "Sir, I
would that you should grant me the use of Grace Church for a
solemn service (a marriage, a baptism, or a funeral, as the case
may be), and as it is desirable that the feelings of the parties
should be protected as far as possible from the impertinent
intrusion and disturbance of a crowd from the streets and lanes
of the city, I beg that no one may be admitted within the doors
of the church during the very few moments that we expect to be
there, but our invited friends only,"--it would certainly, in
such a case, be my pleasure to comply with your request, and to
meet your wishes in every particular; and I think that even Mr.
W*** S*** will agree that all this would be entirely reasonable
and proper. Then, tell me, how would such a case differ from the
instance of which you complain? Two young persons, whose only
crimes would seem to be that they are neither so big, nor so
stupid, nor so ill-mannered, nor so inordinately selfish as some
other people, come to me and say, sir, we are about to be
married, and we wish to throw around our marriage all the
solemnities of religion. We are strangers in your city, and as
there is no clergyman here standing in a pastoral relation to us,
we have ventured to ask the favor of the bishop of New York to
marry us, and he has kindly consented to do so; may we then
venture a little further and request the use of your church in
which the bishop may perform the marriage service? We assure you,
sir, that we are no shams, no cheats, no mountebanks; we are
neither monsters nor abortions; it is true we are little, but we
are as God made us, perfect in our littleness. Sir, we are simply
man and woman of like passions and infirmities with you and other
mortals. The arrangements for our marriage are controlled by no
"showman," and we are sincerely desirous that everything should
be ordered with a most scrupulous regard to decorum. We hope to
invite our relations and intimate friends, together with such
persons as may in other years have extended civilities to either
of us; but we pledge ourselves to you most sacredly that no
invitation can be bought with money. Permit us to say further,
that as we would most gladly escape from the insulting jeers, and
ribald sneers and coarse ridicule of the unthinking multitude
without, we pray you to allow us, at our own proper charges, so
to guard the avenues of access from the street, as to prevent all
unseemly tumult and disorder.

I tell you, sir, that whenever, and from whomsoever, such an
appeal is made to my Christian courtesy, although it should come
from the very humblest of the earth, I would go calmly and
cheerfully forward to meet their wishes, although as many W***
S***'s as would reach from here to Kamtschatka, clothed in furs
and frowns, should rise up to oppose me.

In conclusion, I will say, that if the marriage of Charles S.
Stratton and Lavinia Warren is to be regarded as a pageant, then
it was the most beautiful pageant it has ever been my privilege
to witness. If, on the contrary, it is rather to be thought of as
a solemn ceremony, then it was as touchingly solemn as a wedding
can possibly be rendered. It is true the bishop was not present,
but Mr. Stratton's own pastor, the Rev. Mr. Willey, of
Bridgeport, Connecticut, read the service with admirable taste
and impressiveness, and the bride was given away by her mother's
pastor and her own "next friend," a venerable Congregational
clergyman from Massachusetts. Surely, there never was a gathering
of so many hundreds of our best people, when everybody appeared
so delighted with everything; surely it is no light thing to call
forth so much innocent joy in so few moments of passing time;
surely it is no light thing, thus to smooth the roughness and
sweeten the acerbities which mar our happiness as we advance upon
the wearing journey of life. Sir, it was most emphatically a high
triumph of "Christian civilization!"
Respectfully submitted, by your obedient servant,

Not long after the wedding, a lady called at Barnum's office and
called his attention to a little six-paged pamphlet which she
said she had written. It was called "Priests and Pigmies," and
she asked Barnum to read it. He glanced at the title, and at once
estimating the character of the publication, promptly declined to
devote any portion of his valuable time to its perusal.

"But you had better look at it, Mr. Barnum; it deeply interests
you, and you may think it worth your while to buy it."

"Certainly, I will buy it, if you desire," said he, tendering her
a sixpence, which he supposed to be the price of the little

"Oh! you quite misunderstand me; I mean buy the copyright and the
entire edition, with the view of suppressing the work. It says
some frightful things, I assure you," urged the author.

He lay back in his chair and fairly roared at this exceedingly
feeble attempt at blackmail.

"But," persisted the lady, "suppose it says that your Museum and
Grace Church are all one, what then?"

"My dear madam," he replied, "you may say what you please about
me or about my Museum; you may print a hundred thousand copies of
a pamphlet stating that I stole the communion service, after the
wedding, from Grace Church altar, or anything else you choose to
write; only have the kindness to say something about me, and then
come to me and I will properly estimate the money value of your
services to me as an advertising agent. Good morning,
madam,"--and she departed.



While he had always taken an active interest in politics, it was
many years before Barnum consented to run for any office. In 1852
he was strongly urged to submit his name to the State Convention,
as a candidate for the office of Governor, and although the
Democratic party (to which he then belonged) was in the
ascendancy, and the nomination was equivalent to election, he
still refused.

In 1860 his political convictions were changed, and he identified
himself with the Republican party. During the exciting campaign
of that year, which resulted in Lincoln's first election to the
presidency, it will be remembered that the "Wide-Awake"
associations, with their uniforms and torchlight processions,
were organized in every city, town and village throughout the

One day Mr. Barnum arrived home from New York and learned that
the Bridgeport "Wide Awakes?" were to parade that evening and
intended to march out to Lindencroft. Ordering two boxes of
candles he prepared for an illumination of every window in the
house. Many of his neighbors, among them several Democrats, came
to Lindencroft that evening to witness the parade, and to see the
illumination. His next door neighbor, Mr. T., was a strong
Democrat, and before he left home, he ordered his servants to
stay in the basement, and not show a light, thus proving by the
darkness of his premises, the firmness of his Democratic

Barnum urged his friend James D. Johnson, who was not less a
joker than a Democrat, to engage the attention of Mr. and Mrs.
T., and to keep their faces turned toward Bridgeport and the
approaching procession, while he and Mr. George A. Wells, also a
Democrat, ran over and illuminated Mr. T.'s. house. As the
Wide-Awakes approached and saw that the house of Mr. T. was in a
blaze with light, they concluded that he had changed his
politics, and gave three rousing cheers for him. Hearing his
name, he turned and saw his house lighted from basement to attic,
and uttering one single emphatic ejaculation, he rushed for home.
But he was not able to extinguish the lights before the
Wide-Awakes had gone on their way rejoicing over his apparent

When the war broke out in 1861, Barnum was too old for active
service in the field, but he sent four substitutes and
contributed largely from his means to the support of the Union.

After Bull Run, July 21st, 1861, "Peace Meetings" began to be
held in different parts of the North, and especially in
Connecticut. At these meetings it was usual to display a white
flag bearing the word "Peace," above the national flag, and to
listen to speeches denunciatory of the war.

One of these meetings was held August 24, 1861, at Stepney, ten
miles north of Bridgeport, and Mr. Barnum and Elias Howe, Jr.,
inventor of the sewing machine needle, agreed to attend and hear
for themselves whether the speeches were loyal or not. They
communicated their intention to a number of their friends, asking
them to go also, and at least twenty accepted the invitation. It
was their plan to listen quietly to the harangues, and if they
found any opposition to the government or anything calculated to
create disaffection in the community, or liable to deter
enlistments,--to report the matter to the authorities at
Washington and ask that measures be taken to suppress the

As the carriages of these gentlemen turned into Main street they
discovered two large omnibuses filled with soldiers who were home
on a furlough, and who were going to Stepney. The lighter
carriages soon outran the omnibuses, and the party arrived at
Stepney in time to see the white flag run up above the stars and
stripes. They stood quietly in the crowd, while the meeting was
organized, and a preacher--Mr. Charles Smith--was invited to open
the proceedings with prayer. "The Military and Civil History of
Connecticut, during the war of 1861-65," by W. A. Croffut and
John M. Morris, thus continues the account of the meeting:

"He (Smith) had not, however, progressed far in his supplication,
when he slightly opened his eyes, and beheld, to his horror, the
Bridgeport omnibuses coming over the hill, garnished with Union
banners, and vocal with loyal cheers. This was the signal for a
panic; Bull Run, on a small scale was re-enacted. The devout
Smith, and the undelivered orators, it is alleged, took refuge in
a field of corn. The procession drove straight to the pole
unresisted, the hostile crowd parting to let them pass; and a
tall man--John Platt--amid some mutterings, climbed the pole,
reached the halliards, and the mongrel banners were on the
ground. Some of the peace-men, rallying, drew weapons on 'the
invaders,' and a musket and a revolver were taken from them by
soldiers at the very instant of firing. Another of the defenders
fired a revolver, and was chased into the fields. Still others,
waxing belligerent, were disarmed, and a number of loaded muskets
found stored in an adjacent shed were seized. The stars and
stripes were hoisted upon the pole, and wildly cheered. P. T.
Barnum was then taken on the shoulders of the boys in blue, and
put on the platform, where he made a speech full of patriotism,
spiced with the humor of the occasion. Captain James E. Dunham
also said a few words to the point. * * * * 'The Star Spangled
Banner' was then sung in chorus, and a series of resolutions
passed, declaring that 'loyal men are the rightful custodians of
the peace of Connecticut.' Elias Howe, Jr., chairman, made his
speech, when the crowd threatened to shoot the speakers. 'If they
fire a gun, boys, burn the whole town, and I'll pay for it!'
After giving the citizens wholesome advice concerning the
substituted flag, and their duty to the government, the
procession returned to Bridgeport with the white flag trailing in
the mud behind an omnibus. * * * * They were received at
Bridgeport by approving crowds, and were greeted with continuous
cheers as they passed along."

In the Spring of 1865, Barnum accepted from the Republican party
a nomination to the Connecticut Legislature, from the town of
Fairfield, and he did so mainly because he wished to vote for the
then proposed amendment to the Constitution, to abolish slavery
forever from the land.

He was elected, and on arriving at Hartford the night before the
session began, found the wire pullers at work, laying their plans
for the election of a Speaker of the House.

Barnum, with his usual penetration and shrewdness, saw that the
railroad interests had combined in support of one of the
candidates, and seeing in this, no promise of good to the
community at large, he at once consulted with a few friends in
the Legislature, and they resolved to defeat the railroad "ring,"
if possible, in caucus. Their efforts were successful and the
railroad's candidate was not elected.

Immediately after the caucus, Barnum sought the successful
nominee, Hon. E. K. Foster, of New Haven, and begged him not to
appoint as chairman of the Railroad Committee the man who had
held the office for several successive years, and who was, in
fact, the great railroad factotum of the State. The speaker
complied with Barnum's request, and he soon saw how important it
was to check the strong and growing monopoly; for, as he said,
the "outside pressure" to secure the appointment of the
objectionable party was terrible.

Although Barnum had not foreseen such a thing until he reached
Hartford, he soon discovered that a battle with the railroad
commissioners would be necessary, and his course was shaped
accordingly. A majority of the commissioners were mere tools in
the hands of the railroad companies, and one of them was actually
a hired clerk in the office of the New York and New Haven
Railroad Company. It was also shown that the chairman of the
commissioners permitted most of the accidents which occurred on
that road to be taken charge of and reported upon by their paid
lobby agent.

This was so manifestly destructive to the interests of all
parties who might suffer from accidents on the road, or have any
controversy with the company, that the farmers, and the
anti-monopolist element united to defeat the chairman of the
railroad commissioners, who was a candidate for re-election, and
to put their own candidate in his place.

Through Barnum's efforts a law was passed that no person in the
employ of any railroad in the State, should serve as railroad

But the great struggle, which lasted through the entire session,
was upon the subject of railroad passenger commutations.
Commodore Vanderbilt had secured control of the Hudson River and
Harlem railroads, and had increased the price of commuters'
tickets, from two hundred to four hundred per cent. Many men
living on the line of these roads, ten to fifty miles from New
York, had built fine residences in the country on the strength of
cheap transit to and from the city, and were now compelled to
submit to the extortion. Commodore Vanderbilt was also a large
shareholder in the New York and New Haven road, and it seemed
evident that the same practice would be introduced there Barnum
therefore enlisted as many as he could in a strong effort to
strangle the outrage before it became too strong to grapple with.
Several lawyers in the Assembly promised their aid, but before
the final struggle came, all but one, in the whole body, had
enlisted in favor of the railroads.

What influence had been at work with these gentlemen was, of
course, a matter of conjecture.

Certain it is that all the railroad interests in the State were
combined; and while they had plenty of money with which to carry
out their designs, the chances were small indeed for those
members of the legislature who were struggling for simple
justice, and who had no pecuniary interests at stake.

Nevertheless, every inch of ground was fought over, day after
day, before the legislative railroad committee; examinations and
cross-examinations of railroad commissioners and lobbyists were
kept up. Scarcely more than one man, Senator Ballard, of Darien,
lent his personal aid to Barnum in the investigation, but
together they left not a stone unturned.

The man who was prevented from being appointed chairman succeeded
in becoming one of the railroad commissioners, but so much light
was thrown on his connection with railroad reports, railroad laws
and lobbying, by the indefatigable Barnum, the, the man took to
his bed, some ten days before the close of the session, and
actually staid there "sick " until the legislature adjourned.

The amendment to the United States Constitution abolishing
slavery met with little opposition; but the proposed amendment to
the State Constitution, giving the right of suffrage to the
negro, was violently opposed by the Democratic members. The
report from the minority of the committee to whom the question
was referred gave certain reasons for rejecting the contemplated
amendment, and in reply to this minority report, Barnum spoke,
May 26th, 1865, as follows:--ON THE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.

Mr. Speaker: I will not attempt to notice at any length the
declamation of the honorable gentleman from Milford, for
certainly I have heard nothing from his lips approaching to the
dignity of argument. I agree with the gentleman that the right of
suffrage is "dearly and sacredly cherished by the white man"; and
it is because this right is so dear and sacred, that I wish to
see it extended to every educated moral man within our State,
without regard to color. He tells us that one race is a vessel to
honor, and another to dishonor; and that he has seen on ancient
Egyptian monuments the negro represented as "a hewer of wood and
a drawer of water." This is doubtless true, and the gentleman
seems determined always to KEEP the negro a "vessel of dishonor,"
and a "hewer of wood." We, on the other hand, propose to give him
the opportunity of expanding his faculties and elevating himself
to true manhood. He says he "hates and abhors, and despises
demagogism." I am rejoiced to hear it, and I trust we shall see
tangible evidence of the truth of what he professes in his
abandonment of that slavery to party which is the mere trick and
trap of the demagogue.

When, a few days since, this honorable body voted unanimously for
the Amendment of the United States Constitution, abolishing human
slavery, I not only thanked God from my heart of hearts, but I
felt like going down on my knees to the gentlemen of the
opposition, for the wisdom they had exhibited in bowing to the
logic of events by dropping that dead weight of slavery which had
disrupted the Democratic party, with which I had been so long
connected. And on this occasion I wish again to appeal to the
wisdom and loyalty of my Democratic friends. I say Democratic
"friends," for I am and ever was, a thorough, out and out
Democrat. I supported General Jackson, and voted for every
Democratic president after him, up to and including Pierce; for I
really thought Pierce was a Democrat until he proved the
contrary, as I conceived, in the Kansas question. My democracy
goes for the greatest good to the greatest number, for equal and
exact justice to all men, and for a submission to the will of the
majority. It was the repudiation by the Southern Democracy of
this great democratic doctrine of majority rule which opened the

And now, Mr. Speaker, let me remind our Democratic friends that
the present question simply asks that a majority of the legal
voters, the white citizens of this State, may decide whether or
not colored men of good moral character, WHO ARE ABLE TO READ,
and who possess all the qualifications of white voters, shall be
entitled to the elective franchise. The opposition may have their
own ideas, or may be in doubt upon this subject; but surely no
true Democrat will dare to refuse permission to our
fellow-citizens to decide the question.

Negro slavery, and its legitimate outgrowths of ignorance,
tyranny and oppression, have caused this gigantic rebellion,
which has cost our country thousands of millions of treasure, and
hundreds of thousands of human lives in defending a principle.
And where was this poor, down-trodden colored race in this
rebellion? Did they seize the "opportunity" when their masters
were engaged with a powerful foe, to break out in insurrection,
and massacre those tyrants who had so long held them in the most
cruel bondage? No, Mr. Speaker, they did not do this. My
"Democratic" friends would have done it. I would have done it.
Irishmen, Chinamen, Portuguese, would have done it; any white man
would have done it; but the poor black man is like a lamb in his
nature compared with the white man. The black man possesses a
confiding disposition, thoroughly tinctured with religious
enthusiasm, and not characterized by a spirit of revenge. No, the
only barbarous massacres we heard of, during the war, were those
committed by their white masters on their poor, defenceless white
prisoners, and to the eternal disgrace of southern white
"Democratic" rebels, be it said, these instances of barbarism
were numerous all through the war. When this rebellion first
broke out, the northern Democracy raised a hue-and-cry against
permitting the negroes to fight; but when such a measure seemed
necessary, in order to put down traitors, these colored men took
their muskets in hand and made their bodies a wall of defence for
the loyal citizens of the North. And now, when our grateful white
citizens ask from this assembly the privilege of deciding by
their votes whether these colored men, who at least, were
partially our saviours in the war, may or may not, under proper
restrictions, become participants in that great salvation, I am
amazed that men calling themselves Democrats dare refuse to grant
this democratic measure. We wish to educate ignorant men, white
or black. Ignorance is incompatible with the genius of our free
institutions. In the very nature of things it jeopardizes their
stability, and it is always unsafe to transgress the laws of
nature. We cannot safely shut ourselves up with ignorance and
brutality; we must educate and Christianize those who are now by
circumstances our social inferiors.

Years ago, I was afraid of foreign voters. I feared that when
Europe poured her teeming millions of working people upon our
shores, our extended laws of franchise would enable them to swamp
our free institutions, and reduce us to anarchy. But much
reflection has satisfied me that we have only to elevate these
millions and their descendants to the standard of American
citizenship, and we shall find sufficient of the leaven of
liberty in our system of government to absorb all foreign
elements and assimilate them to a truly democratic form of

Mr. Speaker: We cannot afford to carry passengers and have them
live under our government with no real vital interest in its
perpetuity. Every man must be a joint owner.

The only safe inhabitants of a free country are educated citizens
who vote.

Nor in a free government can we afford to employ journeymen; they
may be apprenticed until they learn to read, and study our
institutions; and then let them become joint proprietors and feel
a proportionate responsibility. The two learned and distinguished
authors of the minority report have been studying the science of
ethnology and have treated us with a dissertation on the races.
And what have they attempted to show? Why, that a race which,
simply on account of the color of the skin, has long been buried
in slavery at the South, and even at the North has been tabooed
and scarcely permitted to rise above the dignity of whitewashers
and boot-blacks, does not exhibit the same polish and refinement
that the white citizens do who have enjoyed the advantages of
civilization, education, Christian culture and self-respect which
can only be attained by those who share in making the laws under
which they live.

Do our Democratic friends assume that the negroes are not human?
I have heard professed Democrats claim even that; but do the
authors of this minority report insist that the negro is a beast?
Is his body not tenanted by an immortal spirit? If this is the
position of the gentlemen, then I confess a beast cannot reason,
and this minority committee are right in declaring that "the
negro can develop no inventive faculties or genius for the arts."
For although the elephant may be taught to plow, or the dog to
carry your market-basket by his teeth, you cannot teach them to
shave notes, to speculate in gold, or even to vote; whereas, the
experience of all political parties shows that men may be taught
to vote, even when they do not know what the ticket means.

But if the colored man is indeed a man, then his manhood with
proper training can be developed. His soul may appear dormant,
his brain inactive, but there is a vitality there; and Nature
will assert herself if you will give her the opportunity.

Suppose an inhabitant of another planet should drop down upon
this portion of our globe at mid-winter. He would find the earth
covered with snow and ice, and congealed almost to the
consistency of granite. The trees are leafless, everything is
cold and barren; no green thing is to be seen; the inhabitants
are chilled, and stalk about shivering, from place to place; he
would exclaim, "Surely this is not life; this means annihilation.
No flesh and blood can long endure this; this frozen earth is
bound in the everlasting embraces of adamantine frost, and can
never develop vegetation for the sustenance of any living thing."
He little dreams of the priceless myriads of germs which
bountiful Nature has safely garnered in the warm bosom of our
mother earth; he sees no evidence of that vitality which the
beneficent sun will develop to grace and beautify the world. But
let him remain till March or April, and as the snow begins to
melt away, he discovers the beautiful crocus struggling through
the half-frozen ground; the snow-drops appear in all their chaste
beauty; the buds of the swamp-maple shoot forth; the beautiful
magnolia opens her splendid blossoms; the sassafras adds its
evidence of life; the pearl-white blossoms of the dog-wood light
up every forest: and while our stranger is rubbing his eyes in
astonishment, the earth is covered with her emerald velvet
carpet; rich foliage and brilliant colored blossoms adorn the
trees; fragrant flowers are enwreathing every wayside; the
swift-winged birds float through the air and send forth joyous
notes of gratitude from every tree-top; the merry lambs skip
joyfully around their verdant pasture-grounds; and everywhere is
our stranger surrounded with life, beauty, joy and gladness.

So it is with the poor African. You may take a dozen specimens of
both sexes from the lowest type of man found in Africa; their
race has been buried for ages in ignorance and barbarism, and you
can scarcely perceive that they have any more of manhood or
womanhood than so many orang-outangs or gorillas. You look at
their low foreheads, their thick skulls and lips, their woolly
heads, their flat noses, their dull, lazy eyes, and you may he
tempted to adopt the language of this minority committee, and
exclaim: Surely these people have "no inventive faculties, no
genius for the arts, or for any of those occupations requiring
intellect and wisdom." But bring them out into the light of
civilization; let them and their children come into the genial
sunshine of Christianity; teach them industry, self-reliance, and
self-respect; let them learn what too few white Christians have
yet understood, that cleanliness is akin to godliness, and a part
of godliness; and the human soul will begin to develop itself.
Each generation, blessed with churches and common schools will
gradually exhibit the result of such culture; the low foreheads
will be raised and widened by an active and expanded brain; the
vacant eye of barbarism, ignorance and idleness will light up
with the fire of intelligence, education, ambition, activity and
Christian civilization; and you will find the immortal soul
asserting her dignity, by the development of a man who would
startle by his intelligence the honorable gentleman from
Wallingford, who has presumed to compare beings made in God's
image with "oxen and asses." That honorable gentleman, if he is
rightly reported in the papers (I did not have the happiness to
hear his speech), has mistaken the nature of the colored man. The
honorable gentleman reminds me of the young man who went abroad,
and when he returned, there was nothing in America that could
compare with what he had seen in foreign lands. Niagara Falls was
nowhere; the White Mountains were "knocked higher than a kite" by
Mont Blanc; our rivers were so large that they were vulgar, when
contrasted with the beautiful little streams and rivulets of
Europe; our New York Central Park was eclipsed by the Bois de
Bologne and the Champs Elysees of Paris, or Hyde or Regent Park
of London, to say nothing of the great Phoenix Park at Dublin.

"They have introduced a couple of Venetian gondolas on the large
pond in Central Park," remarked a friend.

"All very well," replied the verdant traveler, "but between you
and me, these birds can't stand our cold climate more than one
season." The gentleman from Wallingford evidently had as little
idea of the true nature of the African as the young swell had of
the pleasure-boats of Venice.

Mr. Johnson, of Wallingford: "The gentleman misapprehends my
remarks. The gentleman from Norwich had urged that the negro
should vote because they have fought in our battles. I replied
that oxen and asses can fight, and therefore should, on the same
grounds, be entitled to vote."

Mr. Barnum: I accept the gentleman's explanation. Doubtless
General Grant will feel himself highly complimented when he
learns that it requires no greater capacity to handle the musket,
and meet armed battalions in the field, than "oxen and asses"

Let the educated free negro feel that he is a man; let him be
trained in New England churches, schools and workshops; let him
support himself, pay his taxes, and cast his vote, like other
men, and he will put to everlasting shame the champions of modern
Democracy, by the overwhelming evidence he will give in his own
person of the great Scripture truth, that "God has made of one
blood all the nations of men." A human soul, "that God has
created and Christ died for," is not to be trifled with. It may
tenant the body of a Chinaman, a Turk, an Arab or a Hottentot--it
is still an immortal spirit; and, amid all assumptions of caste,
it will in due time vindicate the great fact that, without regard
to color or condition, all men are equally children of the common

A few years since, an English lord and his family were riding in
his carriage in Liverpool. It was an elegant equipage; the
servants were dressed in rich livery; the horses caparisoned in
the most costly style; and everything betokened that the
establishment belonged to a scion of England's proudest
aristocracy. The carriage stopped in front of a palatial
residence. At this moment a poor beggar woman rushed to the side
of the carriage, and gently seizing the lady by the hand,
exclaimed, "For the love of God give me something to save my poor
sick children from starvation. You are rich; I am your poor
sister, for God is our common Father."

"Wretch!" exclaimed the proud lady, casting the woman's hand
away; "don't call me sister; I have nothing in common with such
low brutes as you." And the great lady doubtless thought she was
formed of finer clay than this suffering mendicant; but when a
few days afterward she was brought to a sick bed by the smallpox,
contracted by touching the hand of that poor wretch, she felt the
evidence that they belonged to the same great family, and were
subject to the same pains and diseases.

The State of Connecticut, like New Jersey, is a border State of
New York. New York has a great commercial city, where aldermen
rob by the tens of thousands, and where principal is studied much
more than principle. I can readily understand how the negro has
come to be debased at the North as well as at the South. The
interests of the two sections in the product of negro labor were
nearly identical. The North wanted Southern cotton and the South
was ready in turn to buy from the North whatever was needed in
the way of Northern supplies and manufactures. This community of
commercial interests led to an identity in political principles,
especially in matters pertaining to the negro race--the working
race of the South--which produced the cotton and consumed so much
of what Northern merchants and manufacturers sold for plantation
use. The Southern planters were good customers and were worth
conciliating. So when Connecticut proposed in 1818 to continue to
admit colored men to the franchise, the South protested against
thus elevating the negroes, and Connecticut succumbed. No other
New England State has ever so disgraced herself; and now
Connecticut Democrats are asked to permit the white citizens of
this State to express their opinion in regard to reinstating the
colored man where our Revolutionary sires placed him under the
Constitution. Now, gentlemen, "Democrats," as you call
yourselves, you who speak so flippantly of your "loyalty," your
"love for the Union" and your "love for the people"; you who are
generally talking right and voting wrong, we ask you to come
forward and act "democratically," by letting your masters, the
people, speak.

The word "white" in the Constitution cannot be strictly and
literally construed. The opposition express great love for white
blood. Will they let a mulatto vote half the time, a quadroon
three-fourths, and an octoroon seven-eighths of the time? If not,
why not? Will they enslave seven-eighths of a white man because
one-eighth is not Caucasian? Is this democratic? Shall not the
majority seven control the minority one? Out on such "democracy."

But a Democratic minority committee (of two) seem to have done
something besides study ethnology. They have also paid great
attention to fine arts, and are particularly anxious that all
voters shall have a "genius for the arts." I would like to ask
them if it has always been political practice to insist that
every voter in the great "unwashed" and "unterrified" of any
party should become a member of the Academy of Arts before he
votes the "regular" ticket? I thought he was received into the
full fellowship of a political party if he could exhibit
sufficient "inventive faculties and genius for the arts," to
enable him to paint a black eye. Can a man whose "genius for the
arts" enables him to strike from the shoulder scientifically, be
admitted to full fellowship in a political party? Is it evident
that the political artist has studied the old masters, if he
exhibits his genius by tapping an opponent's head with a
shillelah? The oldest master in this school of art was Cain; and
so canes have been made to play their part in politics, at the
polls and even in the United States Senate Chamber.

Is "genius for the arts and those occupations requiring intellect
and wisdom" sufficiently exemplified in adroitly stuffing
ballot-boxes, forging soldiers' votes, and copying a directory,
as has been done, as the return list of votes? Is the "inventive
faculty" of "voting early and often" a passport to political
brotherhood? Is it satisfactory evidence of "artistic" genius, to
head a mob? and a mob which is led and guided by political
passion, as numerous instances in our history prove, is the worst
of mobs. Is it evidence of "high art" to lynch a man by hanging
him to the nearest tree or lamp-post? Is a "whisky scrimmage" one
of the lost arts restored? We all know how certain "artists" are
prone to embellish elections and to enhance the excitements of
political campaigns by inciting riots, and the frequency with
which these disgraceful outbreaks have occurred of late,
especially in some of the populous cities, is cause for just
alarm. It is dangerous "art."

Mr. Speaker: I repeat that I am a friend to the Irishman. I have
traveled through his native country and have seen how he is
oppressed. I have listened to the eloquent and patriotic appeals
of Daniel O'Connell, in Conciliation Hall, in Dublin, and I have
gladly contributed to his fund for ameliorating the condition of
his countrymen. I rejoice to see them rushing to this land of
liberty and independence; and it is because I am their friend
that I denounce the demagogues who attempt to blind and mislead
them to vote in the interests of any party against the interests
of humanity, and the principles of true democracy. My neighbors
will testify that at mid-winter I employ Irishmen by the hundred
to do work that is not absolutely necessary, in order to help
them support their families.

After hearing the minority report last week, I began to feel that
I might be disfranchised, for I have no great degree of "genius
for the arts;" I felt, therefore, that I must get "posted" on
that subject as soon as possible. I at once sauntered into the
Senate Chamber to look at the paintings: there I saw portraits of
great men, and I saw two empty frames from which the pictures had
been removed. These missing paintings, I was told, were portraits
of two ex-Governors of the State, whose position on political
affairs was obnoxious to the dominant party in the Legislature;
and especially obnoxious were the supposed sentiments of these
governors on the war. Therefore, the Senate voted to remove the
pictures, and thus proved, as it would seem, that there is an
intimate connection between politics and art.

I have repeatedly traveled through every State in the South, and
I assert, what every intelligent officer and soldier who has
resided there will corroborate, that the slaves, as a body are
more intelligent than the poor whites. No man who has not been
there can conceive to what a low depth of ignorance the poor
snuff-taking, clay-eating whites of some portions of the South
have descended. I trust the day is not far distant when the
"common school" shall throw its illuminating rays through this
Egyptian pall.

I have known slave mechanics to be sold for $3,000, and even
$5,000 each, and others could not be bought at all; and I have
seen intelligent slaves acting as stewards for their masters,
traveling every year to New Orleans, Nashville, and even to
Cincinnati, to dispose of their masters' crops. The tree colored
citizens of Opelousas, St. Martinsville, and all the Attakapas
country in Louisiana, are as respectable and intelligent as an
ordinary community of whites. They speak the French and English
languages, educate their children in music and "the arts," and
they pay their taxes on more than fifteen millions of dollars.

Gentlemen of the opposition, I beseech you to remember that our
State and our country ask from us something more than party
tactics. It is absolutely necessary that the loyal blacks at the
South should vote, in order to save the loyal whites. Let
Connecticut, without regard to party, set them an example that
shall influence the action at the South, and prevent a new form
of slavery from arising there, which shall make all our
expenditure of blood and treasure fruitless.

But some persons have this color prejudice simply by the force of
education, and they say, "Well, a nigger is a nigger, and he
can't be anything else. I hate niggers, anyhow." Twenty years ago
I crossed the Atlantic, and among our passengers was an Irish
judge, who was coming out to Newfoundland as chief justice. He
was an exceedingly intelligent and polished gentleman, and
extremely witty. The passengers from the New England States and
those from the South got into a discussion on the subject of
slavery, which lasted three days. The Southerners were finally
worsted, and when their arguments were exhausted, they fell back
on the old story, by saying: "Oh! curse a nigger, he ain't half
human anyhow; he had no business to be a nigger, etc." One of the
gentlemen then turned to the Irish judge, and asked his opinion
of the merits of the controversy. The judge replied:

"Gentlemen, I have listened with much edification to your
arguments pro and con during three days. I was quite inclined to
think the anti-slavery gentlemen had justice and right on their
side, but the last argument from the South has changed my mind. I
say a 'nigger has no business to be a nigger,' and we should kick
him out of society and trample him under foot--always provided,
gentlemen, you prove he was born black at his own particular
request. If he had no word to say in the matter, of course he is
blameless for his color, and is entitled to the same respect that
other men are who properly behave themselves!"

Mr. Speaker: I am no politician; I came to this legislature
simply because I wish to have the honor of voting for the two
constitutional amendments--one for driving slavery entirely out
of our country; the other to allow men of education and good
moral character to vote, regardless of the color of their skins.
To give my voice for these two philanthropic, just and Christian
measures is all the glory I ask legislativewise. I care nothing
whatever for any sect or party under heaven, as such. I have no
axes to grind, no logs to roll, no favors to ask. All I desire is
to do what is right, and prevent what is wrong. I believe in no
"expediency" that is not predicated of justice, for in all
things--politics, as well as everything else--I know that
"honesty is the best policy." A retributive Providence will
unerringly and speedily search out all wrong-doing; hence, right
is always the best in the long run. Certainly,, in the light of
the great American spirit of liberty and equal rights which is
sweeping over this country, and making the thrones of tyrants
totter in the Old World, no party can afford to carry slavery,
either of body or of mind. Knock off your manacles and let the
man go free. Take down the blinds from his intellect, and let in
the light of education and Christian culture. When this is done
you have developed a man. Give him the responsibility of a man
and the self-respect of a man, by granting him the right of
suffrage, Let universal education, and the universal franchise be
the motto of free America, and the toiling millions of Europe,
who are watching you with such intense interest, will hail us as
their saviours. Let us loyally sink "party" on this question, and
go for "God and our Country." Let no man attach an eternal stigma
to his name by shutting his eyes to the great lesson of the hour,
and voting against permitting the people to express their opinion
on this important subject. Let us unanimously grant this truly
democratic boon. Then, when our laws of franchise are settled on
a just basis, let future parties divide where they honestly
differ on State or national questions which do nor trench upon
the claims of manhood or American citizenship.



On the 13th day of July, 1865, when Barnum was speaking in the
Legislature at Hartford, against the railroad schemes, a telegram
was handed him from his son-in-law and assistant manager in New
York, S. H. Hurd, saying that the American Museum was in flames
and its total destruction certain.

Barnum glanced at the dispatch, folded and laid it in his desk,
and went calmly on with his speech. At the conclusion of his
remarks, the bill which he was advocating was voted upon and
carried, and the House adjourned.

Not until then did Barnum hand the telegram to his friend,
William G. Coe, of Winsted, who immediately communicated the
intelligence to several members.

Warm sympathizers at once crowded around him, and one of his
strongest opponents pushing forward, seized his hand, and said:
"Mr. Barnum, I am truly sorry to hear of your great misfortune."

"Sorry," replied Barnum; "why, my dear sir, I shall not have time
to be sorry in a week! It will take me at least that length of
time before I can get over laughing at having whipped you all so
nicely on that bill."

But he did find time to be sorry when, next day, he went to New
York and saw nothing of what had been the American Museum but a
smouldering mass of debris.

Here was destroyed, in a few hours, the result of many years'
toil in accumulating from every part of the world myriads of
curious productions of nature and art--a collection which a half
a million of dollars and a quarter of a century could not

In addition to these, there were many Revolutionary relics and
other articles of historical interest that could never be
duplicated. Not a thousand dollars worth of property was saved;
the loss was irreparable, and the insurance was only forty
thousand dollars.

The fire probably originated in the engine-room, where steam was
constantly kept up to pump fresh air into the waters of the
aquaria and to propel the immense fans for cooling the atmosphere
of the rooms.

All the New York newspapers made a great "sensation" of the fire,
and the full particulars were copied in journals throughout the
country. A facetious reporter; Mr. Nathan D. Urner, of the
Tribune, wrote the following amusing account, which appeared in
that journal, July 14, 1865, and was very generally quoted from
and copied by provincial papers, many of whose readers accepted
every line of the glowing narrative as "gospel truth":

"Soon after the breaking out of the conflagration, a number of
strange and terrible howls and moans proceeding from the large
apartment in the third floor of the Museum, corner of Ann street
and Broadway, startled the throngs who had collected in front of
the burning building, and who were at first under the impression
that the sounds must proceed from human beings unable to effect
their escape. Their anxiety was somewhat relieved on this score,
but their consternation was by no means decreased upon learning
that the room in question was the principal chamber of the
menagerie connected with the Museum, and that there was imminent
danger of the release of the animals there confined, by the
action of the flames. Our reporter fortunately occupied a room on
the north corner of Ann street and Broadway, the windows of which
looked immediately into this apartment; and no sooner was he
apprised of the fire than he repaired there, confident of finding
items in abundance. Luckily the windows of the Museum were
unclosed, and he had a perfect view of almost the entire interior
of the apartment. The following is his statement of what
followed, in his own language.

"Protecting myself from the intense heat as well as I could by
taking the mattress from the bed and erecting it as a bulwark
before the window, with only enough space reserved on the top so
as to look out, I anxiously observed the animals in the opposite
room. Immediately opposite the window through which I gazed was a
large cage containing a lion and lioness. To the right hand was
the three-storied cage, containing monkeys at the top, two
kangaroos in the second story, and a happy family of cats, rats,
adders, rabbits, etc., in the lower apartment. To the left of the
lions' cage was the tank containing the two vast alligators, and
still further to the left, partially hidden from my sight, was
the grand tank containing the great white whale, which has
created such a furore in our sightseeing midst for the past few
weeks. Upon the floor were caged the boa-constrictor, anacondas
and rattlesnakes, whose heads would now and then rise menacingly
through the top of the cage. In the extreme right was the cage,
entirely shut from my view at first, containing the Bengal tiger
and the Polar bear, whose terrific growls could be distinctly
heard from behind the partition. With a simultaneous bound the
lion and his mate sprang against the bars, which gave way and
came down with a great crash, releasing the beasts, which for a
moment, apparently amazed at their sudden liberty, stood in the
middle of the floor lashing their sides with their tails and
roaring dolefully.

"Almost at the same moment the upper part of the three-storied
cage, consumed by the flames, fell forward, letting the rods drop
to the floor, and many other animals were set free. Just at this
time the door fell through and the flames and smoke rolled in
like a whirlwind from the Hadean river Cocytus. A horrible scene
in the right-hand corner of the room, a yell of indescribable
agony, and a crashing, grating sound, indicated that the tiger
and Polar bear were stirred up to the highest pitch of
excitement. Then there came a great crash, as of the giving way
of the bars of their cage. The flames and smoke momentarily
rolled back, and for a few seconds the interior of the room was
visible in the lurid light of the flames, which revealed the
tiger and the lion, locked together in close combat.

"The monkeys were perched around the windows, shivering with
dread, and afraid to jump out. The snakes were writhing about,
crippled and blistered by the heat, darting out their forked
tongues, and expressing their rage and fear in the most sibilant
of hisses. The 'Happy Family' were experiencing an amount of
beatitude which was evidently too cordial for philosophical
enjoyment. A long tongue of flame had crept under the cage,
completely singing every hair from the cat's body. The felicitous
adder was slowly burning in two and busily engaged in
impregnating his organic system with his own venom. The joyful
rat had lost his tail by a falling bar of iron; and the beatific
rabbit, perforated by a red-hot nail, looked as if nothing would
be more grateful than a cool corner in some Esquimaux farm-yard.
The members of the delectated convocation were all huddled
together in the bottom of their cage, which suddenly gave way,
precipitating them out of view in the depths below, which by this
time were also blazing like the fabled Tophet.

"At this moment the flames rolled again into the room, and then
again retired. The whale and alligators were by this time
suffering dreadful torments. The water in which they swam was
literally boiling. The alligators dashed fiercely about,
endeavoring to escape, and opening and shutting their great jaws
in ferocious torture; but the poor whale, almost boiled, with
great ulcers bursting from his blubbery sides, could only feebly
swim about, though blowing excessively, and every now and then
sending up great fountains of spray. At length, crack went the
glass sides of the great cases, and whale and alligators rolled
out on the floor with the rushing and steaming water. The whale
died easily, having been pretty well used up before. A few great
gasps and a convulsive flap or two of his mighty flukes were his
expiring spasm. One of the alligators was killed almost
immediately by falling across a great fragment of shattered
glass, which cut open his stomach and let out the greater part of
his entrails to the light of day. The remaining alligator became
involved in a controversy with an anaconda, and joined the melee
in the centre of the flaming apartment.

"A number of birds which were caged in the upper part of the
building were set free by some charitably inclined person at the
first alarm of fire, and at intervals they flew out. There were
many valuable tropical birds, parrots, cockatoos, mockingbirds,
humming-birds, etc., as well as some vultures and eagles, and one
condor. Great excitement existed among the swaying crowds in the
streets below as they took wing. There were confined in the same
room a few serpents, which also obtained their liberty; and soon
after the rising and devouring flames began to enwrap the entire
building, a splendid and emblematic sight was presented to the
wondering and upgazing throngs. Bursting through the central
casement, with flap of wings and lashing coils, appeared an eagle
and a serpent wreathed in fight. For a moment they hung poised in
mid-air, presenting a novel and terrible conflict. It was the
earth and air (or their respective representatives) at war for
mastery; the base and the lofty, the groveller and the soarer,
were engaged in deadly battle. At length the flat head of the
serpent sank; his writhing, sinuous form grew still; and wafted
upward by the cheers of the gazing multitude, the eagle, with a
scream of triumph, and bearing his prey in his iron talons,
soared towards the sun. Several monkeys escaped from the burning
building to the neighboring roofs and streets; and considerable
excitement was caused by the attempts to secure them. One of the
most amusing incidents in this respect, was in connection with
Mr. James Gordon Bennett. The veteran editor of the Herald was
sitting in his private office, with his back to the open window,
calmly discussing with a friend the chances that the Herald
establishment would escape the conflagration, which at that time
was threateningly advancing up Ann street towards Nassau street.
In the course of his conversation, Mr. Bennett observed:
'Although I have usually had good luck in cases of fire, they say
that the devil is ever at one's shoulder, and'--here an
exclamation from his friend interrupted him, and turning quickly
he was considerably taken aback at seeing the devil himself, or
something like him, at his very shoulder as he spoke. Recovering
his equanimity, with the ease and suavity which is usual with him
in all company, Mr. Bennett was about to address the intruder,
when he perceived that what he had taken for the gentleman in
black was nothing more than a frightened orang-outang. The poor
creature, but recently released from captivity, and doubtless
thinking that he might fill some vacancy in the editorial corps
of the paper in question, had descended by the water-pipe and
instinctively taken refuge in the inner sanctum of the
establishment. Although the editor--perhaps from the fact that he
saw nothing peculiarly strange in the visitation--soon regained
his composure, it was far otherwise with his friend, who
immediately gave the alarm. Mr. Hudson rushed in and boldly
attacked the monkey, grasping him by the throat. The book-editor
next came in, obtaining a clutch upon the brute by the ears; the
musical critic followed and seized the tail with both hands, and
a number of reporters, armed with inkstands and sharpened
pencils, came next, followed by a dozen policemen with brandished
clubs; at the same time, the engineer in the basement received
the preconcerted signal and got ready his hose, wherewith to pour
boiling hot water upon the heads of, those in the streets, in
case it should prove a regular systematized attack by gorillas,
Brazil apes, and chimpanzees. Opposed to this formidable
combination the rash intruder fared badly, and was soon in
durance vile. Numerous other incidents of a similar kind
occurred; but some of the most amusing were in connection with
the wax figures.

"Upon the same impulse which prompts men in time of fire to fling
valuable looking-glasses out of three-story windows, and at the
same time tenderly to lower down feather beds--soon after the
Museum took fire, a number of sturdy firemen rushed into the
building to carry out the wax figures. There were thousands of
valuable articles which might have been saved if there had been
less of solicitude displayed for the miserable effigies which are
usually exhibited under the appellation of 'wax figures.' As it
was, a dozen firemen rushed into the apartment where the figures
were kept, amid a multitude of crawling snakes, chattering
monkeys and escaped paroquets. The 'Dying Brigand' was
unceremoniously throttled and dragged towards the door; liberties
were taken with the tearful 'Senorita' who has so long knelt and
so constantly wagged her doll's head at his side; the mules of
the other bandits were upset, and they themselves roughly seized.
The full-length statue of P. T. Barnum fell down of its own
accord, as if disgusted with the whole affair. A red-shined
fireman seized with either hand Franklin Pierce and James
Buchanan by their coat-collars, tucked the Prince Imperial of
France under one arm and the Veiled Murderess under the other,
and coolly departed for the street. Two ragged boys quarreled
over the Tom Thumb, but at length settled the controversy by one
of them taking the head, the other satisfying himself with the
legs below the knees. They evidently had Tom under their thumbs,
and intended to keep him down. While the curiosity-seeking
policeman was garroting Benjamin Franklin, with the idea of
abducting him, a small monkey, flung from the windowsill by the
strong hand of an impatient fireman, made a straight dive,
hitting Poor Richard just below the waistcoat, and passing
through his stomach, as fairly as the Harlequin in the 'Green
Monster' pantomime ever pierced the picture with the slit in it,
which always hangs so conveniently low and near. Patrick Henry
had his teeth knocked out by a flying missile, and in carrying
Daniel Lambert down stairs, he was found to be so large that they
had to break off his head in order to get him through the door.
At length the heat became intense, the 'figgers' began to
perspire freely, and the swiftly approaching flames compelled all
hands to desist from any further attempt at rescue. Throwing a
parting glance behind as we passed down the stairs, we saw the
remaining dignitaries in a strange plight. Some one had stuck a
cigar in General Washington's mouth, and thus, with his chapeau
crushed down over his eyes and his head leaning upon the ample
lap of Moll Pitcher, the Father of his Country led the van of as
sorry a band of patriots as not often comes within one's
experience to see. General Marion was playing a dummy game of
poker with General Lafayette; Governor Morris was having a set-to
with Nathan Lane, and James Madison was executing a Dutch polka
with Madam Roland on one arm and Luicretia Borgia on the other.
The next moment the advancing flames compelled us to retire.

"We believe that all the living curiosities were saved; but the
giant girl, Anna Swan, was only rescued with the utmost
difficulty. There was not a door through which her bulky frame
could obtain a passage. It was likewise feared that the stairs
would break down, even if she should reach them. Her best friend,
the living skeleton, stood by her as long as he dared, but then
deserted her, while, as the heat grew in intensity, the
perspiration rolled from her face in little brooks and rivulets,
which pattered musically upon the floor. At length, as a last
resort, the employees of the place procured a lofty derrick which
fortunately happened to be standing near, and erected it
alongside of the Museum. A portion of the wall was then broken
off on each side of the window, the strong tackle was got in
readiness, the tall woman was made fast to one end and swung over
the heads of the people in the street, with eighteen men grasping
the other extremity of the line, and lowered down from the third
story, amid enthusiastic applause. A carriage of extraordinary
capacity was in readiness, and, entering this, the young lady was
driven away to a hotel.

"When the surviving serpents, that were released by the partial
burning of the box in which they were contained, crept along on
the floor to the balcony of the Museum and dropped on the
sidewalk, the crowd, seized with St. Patrick's aversion to the
reptiles, fled with such precipitate haste that they knocked each
other down and trampled on one another in the most reckless and
damaging manner.

"Hats were lost, coats torn, boots burst and pantaloons dropped
with magnificent miscellaneousness, and dozens of those who rose
from the miry streets into which they had been thrown looked like
the disembodied spirits of a mud bank. The snakes crawled on the
sidewalk and into Broadway, where some of them died from injuries
received, and others were dispatched by the excited populace.
Several of the serpents of the copper-head species escaped the
fury of the tumultuous masses, and, true to their instincts,
sought shelter in the World and News offices. A large black bear
escaped from the burning Museum into Ann street, and then made
his way into Nassau, and down that thoroughfare into Wall, where
his appearance caused a sensation. Some superstitious persons
believed him the spirit of a departed Ursa Major, and others of
his fraternity welcomed the animal as a favorable omen. The bear
walked quietly along to the Custom House, ascended the steps of
the building, and became bewildered, as many a biped bear has
done before him. He seemed to lose his sense of vision, and, no
doubt, endeavoring to operate for a fall, walked over the side of
the steps and broke his neck. He succeeded in his object, but it
cost him dearly. The appearance of Bruin in the street sensibly
affected the stock market, and shares fell rapidly; but when he
lost his life in the careless manner we have described, shares
advanced again, and the Bulls triumphed once more.

"Broadway and its crossings have not witnessed a denser throng
for months than assembled at the fire yesterday. Barnum's was
always popular, but it never drew so vast a crowd before. There
must have been forty thousand people on Broadway, between Maiden
Lane and Chambers street, and a great portion stayed there until
dusk. So great was the concourse of people that it was with
difficulty pedestrians or vehicles could pass.

"After the fire several high-art epicures, groping among the
ruins, found choice morsels of boiled whale, roasted kangaroo and
fricasseed crocodile, which, it is said, they relished; though
the many would have failed to appreciate such rare edibles.
Probably the recherche epicures will declare the only true way to
prepare those meats is to cook them in a Museum wrapped in
flames, in the same manner that the Chinese, according to Charles
Lamb, first discovered roast pig in a burning house, and ever
afterward set a house on fire with a pig inside, when they wanted
that particular food."

All the New York journals, and many more in other cities,
editorially expressed their sympathy with the misfortune, and
their sense of the loss the community had sustained in the
destruction of the American Museum. The following editorial is
from the New York Tribune of July 14, 1865:

"The destruction of no building in this city could have caused so
much excitement and so much regret as that of Barnum's Museum.
The collection of curiosities was very large, and though many of
them may not have had much intrinsic or memorial value, a
considerable portion was certainly of great worth for any Museum.
But aside from this, pleasant memories clustered about the place,
which for so many years has been the chief resort for amusement
to the common people who cannot often afford to treat themselves
to a night at the more expensive theatres, while to the children
of the city, Barnum's has been a fountain of delight, ever
offering new attractions as captivating and as implicitly
believed in as the Arabian Nights Entertainments: Theatre,
Menagerie and Museum, it amused, instructed, and astonished. If
its thousands and tens of thousands of annual visitors were
bewildered sometimes with a Wooly Horse, a What is It? or a
Mermaid, they found repose and certainty in a Giraffe, a Whale or
a Rhinoceros. If wax effigies of pirates and murderers made them
shudder lest those dreadful figures should start out of their
glass cases and repeat their horrid deeds, they were reassured by
the presence of the mildest and most amiable of giants, and the
fattest of mortal women, whose dead weight alone could crush all
the wax figures into their original cakes. It was a source of
unfailing interest to all country visitors, and New York to many
of them was only the place that held Barnum's Museum. It was the
first thing--often the only thing--they visited when they came
among us, and nothing that could have been contrived, out of our
present resources, could have offered so many attractions, unless
some more ingenious showman had undertaken to add to Barnum's
collection of waxen criminals by putting in a cage the live
Boards of the Common Council. We mourn its loss, but not as
without consolation. Barnum's Museum is gone, but Barnum himself,
happily, did not share the fate of his rattlesnakes and his, at
least, most "un-Happy Family." There are fishes in the seas and
beasts in the forest; birds still fly in the air, and strange
creatures still roam in the deserts; giants and pigmies still
wander up and down the earth; the oldest man, the fattest woman,
and the smallest baby are still living, and Barnum will find

"Or even if none of these things or creatures existed, we could
trust to Barnum to make them out of hand. The Museum, then, is
only a temporary loss, and much as we sympathize with the
proprietor, the public may trust to his well-known ability and
energy to soon renew a place of amusement which was a source of
so much innocent pleasure, and had in it so many elements of
solid excellence."

As already stated, Mr. Barnum's insurance was but forty thousand
dollars while the loss was fully four hundred thousand, and as
his premium was five per cent., he had already paid the insurance
companies more than they returned to him.

His first impulse, on reckoning up his losses, was to retire from
active life and all business occupations, beyond what his real
estate interests in Bridgeport and New York would compel. He went
to his old friend, Horace Greeley, and asked for advice on the

"Accept this fire as a notice to quit, and go a-fishing," said
Mr. Greeley.

"What?" exclaimed Barnum.

"Yes, go a-fishing," replied Greeley. "Why, I have been wanting
to go for thirty years, and have never yet found time to do so."

And but for two considerations Barnum might have taken this
advice. One hundred and fifty employees were thrown out of work
at a season when it would have been difficult to get anything
else to do. That was the most important consideration. Then, too,
Barnum felt that a large city like New York needed a good Museum,
and that his experience of a quarter of a century in that
direction afforded the greatest facilities for founding another
establishment of the kind. So he took a few days for reflection.

The Museum employees were tendered a benefit at the Academy of
Music, at which most of the dramatic artists in the city gave
their services. At the conclusion Barnum was called for, and made
a brilliant speech, in which he announced that he had decided to
establish another Museum, and that, in order to give present
occupation to his employees, he had engaged the Winter Garden
Theatre for a few weeks, his new establishment promising to be
ready by fall.

The New York Sun commented on the speech as follows:

"One of the happiest impromptu oratorical efforts that we have
heard for some time was that made by Barnum at the benefit
performance given for his employees on Friday afternoon. If a
stranger wanted to satisfy himself how the great showman had
managed so to monopolize the ear and eye of the public during his
long career, he could not have had a better opportunity of doing
so than by listening to this address. Every word, though
delivered with apparent carelessness, struck a key-note in the
hearts of his listeners. Simple, forcible and touching, it showed
how thoroughly this extraordinary man comprehends the character
of his countrymen, and how easily he can play upon their

"Those who look upon Barnum as a mere charlatan, have really no
knowledge of him. It would be easy to demonstrate that the
qualities that have placed him in his present position of
notoriety and affluence would, in another pursuit, have raised
him to far greater eminence. In his breadth of views, his
profound knowledge of mankind, his courage under reverses, his
indomitable perseverance, his ready eloquence and his admirable
business tact, we recognize the elements that are conducive to
success in most other pursuits. More than almost any other living
man, Barnum may be said to be a representative type of the
American mind."



During his legislative career Mr. Barnum made many new friends
and pleasant acquaintances, and there were many events great and
small which tended to make the session memorable. Barnum was by
no means an idle member. On several occasions, indeed, he took a
most conspicuous part in debates and in framing legislation. On
one occasion, a Representative, who was a lawyer, introduced
resolutions to reduce the number of Representatives, urging that
the "House" was too large and ponderous a body to work smoothly;
that a smaller number of persons could accomplish business more
rapidly and completely; and, in fact, that the Connecticut
Legislature was so large that the members did not have time to
get acquainted with each other before the body adjourned sine
die. Barnum replied, that the larger the number of
Representatives, the more difficult it would be to tamper with
them; and if they all could not become personally acquainted, so
much the better, for there would be fewer "rings," and less
facilities for forcing improper legislation.

"As the House seems to be thin now, I will move to lay my
resolutions on the table," remarked the member; "but I shall call
them up when there is a full House."

"According to the gentleman's own theory," Barnum replied, "the
smaller the number, the surer are we to arrive at correct
conclusions. Now, therefore, is just the time to decide; and I
move that the gentleman's resolutions be considered." This
proposition was seconded amid a roar of laughter; and the
resolutions were almost unanimously voted down, before the member
fairly comprehended what was going on. He afterwards acknowledged
it as a pretty fair joke, and at any rate as an effective one.

At this time Connecticut had two capitals, Hartford and New
Haven. The State House at Hartford was a wretched old building,
too small and entirely unfit for the purposes to which it was
devoted; and that at New Haven was scarcely better. Barnum made a
strong effort to secure the erection of new buildings in both
cities, and was made chairman of the committee having the matter
in charge. During his investigations he ascertained that
Bridgeport, Middletown and Meriden would each be willing to erect
a fine new State House at its own cost, for the sake of being
made the capital of the State. Thus the jealousy of Hartford and
New Haven was greatly aroused, and committees of citizens waited
upon Mr. Barnum, beseeching him not to press the matter of
removing the capital. In the end nothing definite was done, but
years afterward Hartford was made the sole capital and one of the
finest public buildings in the world was erected there.

The most notable event of the whole session however occurred near
its close, when Barnum introduced a bill to amend the railroad
law of the State by inserting in it the following:

"Section 508. No railroad company, which has had a system of
commutation fares in force for more than four years, shall
abolish, alter, or modify the same, except for the regulation of
the price charged for such commutation; and such price shall, in
no case, be raised to an extent that shall alter the ratio
between such commutation and the rates then charged for way fare,
on the railroad of such company."

The New York and New Haven Railroad Company seemed determined to
move heaven and earth to prevent the passage of this law. The
halls of legislation were thronged with railroad lobbyists, who
button-holed nearly every member. Barnum's motives were attacked,
and the most foolish slanders were circulated. Not only every
legal man in the House was arrayed against him, but occasionally
a "country member," who had promised to stick by and aid in
checking the cupidity of railroad managers, would drop off, and
be found voting on the other side. "I devoted," says Barnum,
"many hours, and even days, to explaining the true state of
things to the members from the rural regions, and, although the
prospect of carrying this great reform looked rather dark, I felt
that I had a majority of the honest and disinterested members of
the House with me. Finally, Senator Ballard informed me that he
had canvassed the Senate, and was convinced that the bill could
be carried through that body if I could be equally successful
with the House."

The date of the final debate and vote was fixed for the morning
of July 13. At that time the excitement was intense. The State
House was crowded with railroad lobbyists; for nearly every
railroad in the State had made common cause with the New York and
New Haven Company, and every Representative was in his seat,
excepting the sick man, who had doctored the railroads till he
needed doctoring himself. The debate was led off by skirmishers
on each side, and was finally closed on the part of the railroads
by Mr. Harrison, of New Haven, who was chairman of the railroad
committee. Mr. Harrison was a close and forcible debater and a
clear-headed lawyer. His speech exhibited considerable thought,
and his earnestness and high character as a gentleman of honor
carried much weight. Besides, his position as chairman of the
committee naturally influenced some votes. He claimed to
understand thoroughly the merits of the question, from having, in
his capacity as chairman, heard all the testimony and arguments
which had come before that committee; and a majority of the
committee, after due deliberation, had reported against the
proposed bill.

Mr. Barnum arose to close the debate. He endeavored to state
briefly the gist of the whole case. "Only a few years before," he
said, "the New York and New Haven Company had fixed their own
price for commuters' tickets along the whole line of the road,
and had thus induced hundreds of New York citizens to remove to
Connecticut with their families, and build their houses on
heretofore unimproved property, thus vastly increasing the value
of the lands, and correspondingly helping our receipts for taxes.
He urged that there was a tacit understanding between the
railroad and these commuters and the public generally, that such
persons as chose thus to remove from a neighboring State, and
bring their families and capital within Connecticut's borders,
should have the right to pass over the railroad on the terms
fixed at the time by the president and directors; 'that any claim
that the railroad could not afford to commute at the prices they
had themselves established was absurd, from the fact that, even
now, if one thousand families who reside in New York, and had
never been in our own State, should propose to the railroad to
remove these families (embracing in the aggregate five thousand
persons) to Connecticut, and build one thousand new houses on the
line of the New York and New Haven Railroad, provided the
railroad would carry the male head of the family at all times for
nothing, the company could well afford to accept the proposition,
because they would receive full prices for transporting all other
members of these families, at all times, as well as full prices
for all their visitors and servants.'

"And now," he said, "what are the facts? Do we desire the
railroad to carry even one-fifth of these new-comers for nothing?
Do we, indeed, desire to compel them to transport them for any
definitely fixed price at all? On the contrary, we find that
during the late rebellion, when gold was selling for two dollars
and eighty cents per dollar, this company doubled its prices of
commutation, and retains the same prices now, although gold is
but one-half that amount ($1.40). We don't ask them to go back to
their former prices; we don't compel them to rest even here; we
simply say, increase your rates, pile up your demands just as
high as you desire, only you shall not make fish of one and fowl
of another. You have fixed and increased your prices to
passengers of all classes just as you liked, and established your
own ratio between those who pay by the year and those who pay by
the single trip; and now, all we ask is, that you shall not
change the ratio. Charge ten dollars per passenger from New York
to New Haven, if you have the courage to risk the competition of
the steamboats; and whatever percentage you choose to increase
the fare of transient passengers, we permit you to increase the
rates of commuters in the same ratio.

"The interests of the State, as well as communities, demand this
law; for if it is once fixed by statute that the prices of
commutation are not to be increased, many persons will leave the
localities where extortion is permitted on the railroads, and
will settle in our State. But these railroad gentlemen say they
have no intention to increase their rates of commutation, and
they deprecate what they term 'premature legislation,' and an
uncalled-for meddling with their affairs. Mr. Speaker, 'an ounce
of prevention is worth a pound of cure.' Men engaged in plots
against public interests always ask to be 'let alone.' Jeff Davis
only asked to be 'let alone,' when the North was raising great
armies to prevent the dissolution of the Union. The people cannot
afford to let these railroads alone. This hall, crowded with
railroad lobbyists, as the frogs thronged Egypt, is an admonition
to all honest legislators that it is unsafe to allow the
monopolies the chance to rivet the chains which already fetter
the limbs of those whom circumstances place in the power of these

At this point in his speech he was interrupted a messenger, who
placed in his hands a dispatch from his son-in-law in New York,
marked "Urgent." He opened and read it. It announced that his
Museum had been totally destroyed by fire. He laid it upon his
desk, and without the slightest change of manner continued his
argument, as follows:

"These railroad gentlemen absolutely deny any intention of
raising the fares of commuters, and profess to think it very hard
that disinterested and conscientious gentlemen like them should
be judged by the doings of the Hudson River and Harlem Railroads.
But now, Mr. Speaker, I am going to expose the duplicity of these
men. I have had detectives on their track, for men who plot
against public interest deserve to be watched. I have in my
pocket positive proofs that they did, and do, intend to spring
their trap upon the unprotected commuters on the New York and New
Haven Railroad."

He then drew from his pocket and read two telegrams received that
morning, one from New York and the other from Bridgeport,
announcing that the New York and New Haven Railroad Directory had
held a secret meeting in New York the day before, for the purpose
of immediately raising the fares of commuters twenty per cent.,
so that in case his bill became a law they could get ahead of
him. He continued:

"Now, Mr. Speaker, I know that these dispatches are true; my
information is from the inside of the camp. I see a director of
the New York and New Haven Railroad sitting in this hall; I know
that he knows these dispatches are true; and if he will go before
the railroad committee and make oath that he don't know that such
a meeting took place yesterday, for exactly this purpose, I will
forfeit and pay one thousand dollars to the families of poor
soldiers in this city. In consideration of this attempt to
forestall the action of this Legislature, I offer an amendment to
the bill now under consideration, by adding after the word
'ratio' the words 'as it existed on the 1st day of July, 1865.'
In this way we shall cut off any action which these sleek
gentlemen may have taken yesterday. It is now evident that these
railroad gentlemen have set a trap for this Legislature; and I
propose that we now spring the trap, and see if we cannot catch
these wily railroad directors in it. Mr. Speaker, I move the
previous question."

This revelation astounded the opposition, and the "previous
question" was ordered. On the final vote the bill was carried
through triumphantly, and has ever since remained an important
item in the statute-book of the State.

In the spring of 1866 Barnum was re-elected to represent the town
of Fairfield in the Legislature. He had not intended to serve
again. But one of the directors of the railroad, who had led the
opposition to Barnum's new railroad law, had openly boasted about
the town that Barnum should not be allowed to hold the office
again. It was in response to these boasts that Barnum decided to
accept the nomination, and he was handsomely elected.

The leading issue before that Legislature was the election of a
United States Senator. Andrew Johnson was then President of the
United States, and had begun to break away from the Republican
party. One of the Connecticut Senators was following him in this
action. The other Senator was now a candidate for re-election.
Barnum had been an earnest admirer of him, but now ascertained
that he too was siding with Johnson. This caused Barnum to take
an active part in opposing him, and the showman-legislator spent
many days and nights endeavoring to impress upon his colleagues
the importance of defeating this candidate and electing the Hon.
O. S. Ferry to the Senatorship.

Excitement ran high. At first Mr. Ferry had only a few votes. But
under Barnum's skilful leadership he at last obtained a majority
in the party caucus and was accordingly elected.

During that summer Barnum entertained many eminent politicians
and other public men at his beautiful residence, Lindencroft.
Governor Hawley wanted him to serve as a Commissioner to the
Paris Exposition of 1867, but he was unable to do so.

In the spring of 1867 he was nominated for Congress by the
Republicans of the Fourth District. In referring to this episode,
he afterward remarked: "Politics were always distasteful to me. I
possessed, naturally, too much independence of mind, and too
strong a determination to do what I believe to be right,
regardless of party expediency, to make a lithe and oily
politician. To be called on to favor applications from
office-seekers, without regard to their merits, and to do the
dirty work too often demanded by political parties; to be "all
things to all men," though not in the apostolic sense; to shake
hands with those whom I despised, and to kiss the dirty babies of
those whose votes were courted, were political requirements which
I felt I could never acceptably fulfil. Nevertheless, I had
become, so far as business was concerned, almost a man of
leisure; and some of my warmest personal friends insisted that a
nomination to so high and honorable a position as a member of
Congress was not to be lightly rejected, and so I consented to
run. Fairfield and Litchfield counties composed the district,
which, in the preceding Congressional election, in 1865, and just
after the close of the war, was Republican. In the year
following, however, the district in the State election went
Democratic. I had this Democratic majority to contend against in
1867, and as the whole State turned over and elected the
Democratic ticket, I lost my election. In the next succeeding
Congressional election, in 1869, the Fourth District also elected
the only Democratic Congressman chosen from Connecticut that

"I was neither disappointed nor cast down by my defeat. The
political canvass served the purpose of giving me a new
sensation, and introducing me to new phases of human nature--a
subject which I had always great delight in studying. The filth
and scandal, the slanders and vindictiveness, the plottings and
fawnings, the fidelity, meanness and manliness,: which by turns
exhibited themselves in the exciting scenes preceding the
election, were novel to me, and were so far interesting.

"Shortly after my opponent was nominated I sent him the following
letter, which was also published in the Bridgeport Standard:

" 'BRIDGEPORT, Conn., February 21, 1867.
" 'W. H. BARNUM, Esq., Salisbury, Conn.:

" 'Dear Sir: Observing that the Democratic party has nominated
you for Congress from this district, I desire to make you a

" 'The citizens of this portion of our State will be compelled,
on the first Monday in April next, to decide whether you or
myself shall represent their interests and their principles in
the Fortieth Congress of the United States.

" 'The theory of our government is, that the will of the people
shall be the law of the land. It is important, therefore, that
the people shall vote understandingly, and especially at this
important crisis in our national existence. In order that the
voters of this district shall fully comprehend the principles by
which each of their Congressional candidates is guided, I
respectfully invite you to meet me in a serious and candid
discussion of the important political issues of the day at
various towns in the Fourth Congressional District of
Connecticut, on each week-day evening, from the fourth day of
March until the thirtieth day of the same month, both inclusive.

" 'If you will consent to thus meet me in a friendly discussion
of those subjects, now so near and dear to every American heart,
and, I may add, possessing at this time such momentous interest
to all civilized nations in the world who are suffering from
misrule, I pledge myself to conduct my portion of the debate with
perfect fairness, and with all due respect for my opponent, and
doubt not you will do the same.

" 'Never, in my judgment, in our past history as a nation, have
interests and questions more important appealed to the people for
their wise and careful consideration. It is due to the voters of
the Fourth Congressional District that they have an early and
full opportunity to examine their candidates in regard to these
important problems, and I shall esteem it a great privilege if
you will accept this proposition.

" 'Please favor me with an early answer, and oblige
" 'Truly yours,
" 'P. T. BARNUM.' "

To this letter Mr. William H. Barnum replied, positively
declining to accept his rival's proposition.

When Congress met P. T. Barnum was surprised to see in the
newspapers an announcement that the seat of his successful rival
was to be contested on the ground of bribery and fraud. " This,"
he said, "was the first intimation that I had ever received of
such an intention, and I was never, at any time before or
afterwards, consulted upon the subject. The movement proved to
have originated with neighbors and townsmen of the successful
candidate, who claimed to be able to prove that he had paid large
sums of money to purchase votes. They also claimed that they had
proof that men were brought from an adjoining State to vote, and
that in the office of the successful candidate naturalization
papers were forged to enable foreigners to vote upon them. But, I
repeat, I took no part nor lot in the matter, but concluded that
if I had been defeated by fraud, mine was the real success.' "



After the destruction of his museum by fire, Barnum determined to
open another and still finer establishment. It would not be on
the old site, however, but further up town. The unexpired lease
of the two lots at Ann Street and Broadway he proposed to sell;
and he quickly had numerous offers for it. This lease still had
about eleven years to run, and the annual rental was only
$10,000; and there was a provision that, in case of the burning
of the building, the owner was to spend $24,000 in aiding Barnum
to rebuild, and then, at the expiration of the lease, was to pay
Barnum the appraised value of the building, not exceeding
$100,000. This lease had seemed extravagant when Barnum had made
it, but the great growth of the city had so increased the value
of property in that vicinity, that now the rental of $10,000
seemed ridiculously small. An experienced real estate broker,
whom Barnum engaged for the purpose, estimated the value of the
lease at $275,000. Barnum was so anxious, however, to get the
matter settled at once that he decided to offer the lease for
sale at $225,000.

The next day he met James Gordon Bennett, the elder, the owner of
the New York Herald. Mr. Bennett told him that he thought of
buying both the lease and the fee simple of the property itself,
and erecting there a fine building for his great newspaper.
Barnum therefore, offered him the lease for $200,000, and after a
few day's consideration Mr. Bennett accepted the offer. His
attorney thereupon handed to Mr. Barnum a check on the Chemical
Bank for $200,000, which Barnum immediately used in the purchase
of Government Bonds. Mr. Bennett had agreed to purchase the fee
of the property for $500,000. He had been informed that the
property was worth some $300,000 to $400,000, and he did not mind
paying $100,000 extra for the purpose of carrying out his plans.
But the parties who estimated for him the value of the land knew
nothing of the fact that there was a lease upon the property,
else of course they would in their estimate have deducted the
$200,000, which the lease would cost. When, therefore, Mr.
Bennett saw it stated in the newspapers that the sum which he had
paid for a piece of land measuring only fifty-six by one hundred
feet was more than was ever paid before in any city in the world
for a tract of that size, he discovered the serious oversight
which he had made; and the owner of the property was immediately
informed that Bennett would not take it. But Bennett had already
signed a bond to the owner, agreeing to pay $100,000 cash, and to
mortgage the premises for the remaining $400,000.

Supposing that by this step he had shaken off the owner of the
fee, Bennett was not long in seeing that, as he was not to own
the land, he would have no possible use for the lease, for which
he had paid the $200,000; and accordingly his next step was to
shake Barnum off also, and get back the money he had paid him.

In speaking of what followed, Mr. Barnum afterwards said: "My
business for many years, as manager of the Museum and other
public entertainments, compelled me to court notoriety; and I
always found Bennett's abuse far more remunerative than his
praise, even if I could have had the praise at the same price,
that is for nothing. Especially was it profitable to me when I
could be the subject of scores of lines of his scolding
editorials free of charge, instead of paying him forty cents a
line for advertisements, which would not attract a tenth part so
much attention. Bennett had tried abusing me, off and on, for
twenty years, on one occasion refusing my advertisement
altogether for the space of about a year; but I always managed to
be the gainer by his course. Now, however, when new difficulties
threatened, all the leading managers in New York were members of
the 'Managers' Association,' and as we all submitted to the
arbitrary and extortionate demands of the Herald, Bennett thought
he had but to crack his whip, in order to keep all and any of us
within the traces. Accordingly one day Bennett's attorney wrote
me a letter, saying that he would like to have me call on him at
his office the following morning. Not dreaming of the object, I
called as desired, and after a few pleasant commonplace remarks
about the weather, and other trifles, the attorney said:

" 'Mr. Barnum, I have sent for you to say that Mr. Bennett has
concluded not to purchase the museum lots, and therefore that you
had better take back the lease, and return the $200,000 paid for

" 'Are you in earnest?' I asked with surprise.

" 'Certainly, quite so,' he answered.

" 'Really,' I said, smiling, 'I am sorry I can't accommodate Mr.
Bennett; I have not got the little sum about me; in fact, I have
spent the money.'

" 'It will be better for you to take back the lease,' said the
attorney, seriously.

" 'Nonsense,' I replied, 'I shall do nothing of the sort; I don't
make child's bargains. The lease was cheap enough, but I have
other business to attend to, and shall have nothing to do with

"The attorney said very little in reply; but I could see, by the
almost benignant sorrow expressed upon his countenance, that he
evidently pitied me for the temerity that would doubtless lead me
into the jaws of the insatiable monster of the Herald. The next
morning I observed that the advertisement of my entertainments
with my museum company at Winter Garden was left out of the
Herald columns. I went directly to the editorial rooms of the
Herald; and learning that Bennett was not in, I said to Mr.
Hudson, then managing editor:

" 'My advertisement is left out of the Herald; is there a screw

" 'I believe there is,' was the reply.

" 'What is the matter?' I asked.

" 'You must ask the Emperor,' said Mr. Hudson, meaning of course

" 'When will the "Emperor" be in?' I inquired. 'Next Monday,' was
the answer.

" 'Well, I shall not see him,' I replied; 'but I wish to have
this thing settled at once. Mr. Hudson, I now tender you the
money for the insertion of my museum advertisement on the same
terms as are paid by other places of amusement; will you publish

" 'I will not,' Mr. Hudson peremptorily replied.

" 'That is all,' I said. Mr. Hudson then smilingly and blandly
remarked, 'I have formally answered your formal demand, because I
suppose you require it; but you know, Mr. Barnum, I can only obey
orders.' I assured him that I understood the matter perfectly,
and attached no blame to him in the premises. I then proceeded to
notify the secretary of the 'Managers' Association' to call the
managers together at twelve o'clock the following day; and there
was a full meeting at the appointed time. I stated the facts in
the case in the Herald affair, and simply remarked, that if we
did not make common cause against any newspaper publisher who
excluded an advertisement from his columns simply to gratify a
private pique, it was evident that either and all of us were
liable to imposition at any time.

"One of the managers immediately made a motion that the entire
Association should stop their advertising and bill printing at
the Herald office, and have no further connection with that
establishment. Mr. Lester Wallack advised that this motion should
not be adopted until a committee had waited upon Bennett, and had
reported the result of the interview to the Association.
Accordingly, Messrs. Wallack, Wheatley and Stuart were delegated
to go, down to the Herald office to call on Mr. Bennett.

"The moment Bennett saw them, he evidently suspected the object
of their mission, for he at once commenced to speak to Mr.
Wallack in a patronizing manner; told him how long he had known,
and how much he respected his late father, who was a true English
gentleman of the old school,' with much more in the same strain.
Mr. Wallack replied to Bennett that the three managers were
appointed a committee to wait upon him to ascertain if he
insisted upon excluding from his columns the museum
advertisements--not on account of any objection to the contents
of the advertisements, or to the museum itself, but simply
because he had a private business disagreement with the
proprietor; intimating that such a proceeding, for such a reason,
and no other, might lead to a rupture of business relations with
other managers. In reply, Mr. Bennett had something to say about
the fox that had suffered tailwise from a trap, and thereupon
advised all other foxes to cut their tails off; and he pointed
the fable by setting forth the impolicy of drawing down upon the
Association the vengeance of the Herald. The committee, however,
coolly insisted upon a direct answer to their question.

"Bennett then answered: 'I will not publish Barnum's
advertisement; I do my business as I please, and in my own way.'

" 'So do we,' replied one of the managers, and the committee

"The next day the Managers' Association met, heard the report,
and unanimously resolved to withdraw their advertisements from
the Herald, and their patronage from the Herald job
establishment, and it was done. Nevertheless, the Herald for
several days continued to print gratutitously the advertisements
of Wallack's Theatre and Niblo's Garden, and inordinately puffed
these establishments, evidently in order to ease the fall, and to
convey the idea that some of the theatres patronized the Herald,
and perhaps hoping by praising these managers to draw them back
again, and so to nullify the agreement of the Association in
regard to the Herald. Thereupon, the mangers headed their
advertisements in all the other New York papers with the line,
'This establishment does not advertise in the New York Herald,'
and for many months this announcement was kept at the top of
every theatrical advertisement and on the posters and playbills.

"The Herald then began to abuse and villify the theatrical and
opera managers, their artists and their performances, which, of
course, was well understood by the public, and relished
accordingly. Meanwhile the theatres prospered amazingly. Their
receipts were never larger, and their houses never more thronged.
The public took sides in the matter with the managers and against
the Herald, and thousands of people went to the theatres merely
to show their willingness to support the managers and to spite
'Old Bennett.' The editor was fairly caught in his own trap.
Other journals began to estimate the loss the Herald sustained by
the action of the managers, and it was generally believed that


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