Cambridge Sketches
Frank Preston Stearns

Part 3 out of 5

Sumner's first difference was with his conservative friends, and
especially with his law-partner, George S. Hillard, a brilliant man in
his way, and for an introductory address without a rival in Boston.
Hillard was at heart as anti-slavery as Sumner, and his wife had even
assisted fugitive slaves, but he was swathed in the bands of fashionable
society, and he lacked the courage to break loose from them. He adhered
to the Whigs and was relegated to private life. They parted without
acrimony, and Sumner never failed to do his former friend a service when
he found an opportunity.

His difference with Felton was of a more serious kind. Emerson, perhaps,
judged Felton too severely,--a man of ardent temperament who was always
in danger of saying more than he intended.

Sumner's election to the Senate was a chance in ten thousand. It is well
known that at first he declined to be a candidate. He did not think he
was fitted for the position, and when Caleb Gushing urged him to court
the favor of fortune he said: "I will not leave my chair to become United
States Senator." Whatever vanity there might be in the man, he was
entirely free from the ambition for power and place.

There were several prominent public men at the time who would have given
all they owned for the position, but they were set aside for the man who
did not want it,--the bold jurist who dared to set himself against the
veteran statesmen of his country. It reads like a Bible-tale, or the
story of Cincinnatus taken from his plow to become dictator.

The gates of his _alma mater_ were now closed to Sumner, not only
during his life but even long after that. Such is the fate of
revolutionary characters, that they tear asunder old and familiar bonds
in order to contract new ties. In Washington he found a broader and more
vigorous life, if less cultivated, and the Free-soil leaders with whom he
now came in contact in his own State were much more akin to his own
nature than Story, and Felton, and Hillard. Sumner was never popular in
Washington, as he had been among the English liberals and Cambridge men
of letters; but he was respected on all sides for his fearlessness, his
ability, and the veracity of his statements. His previous life now proved
a great advantage to him in most respects, but he had become accustomed
to dealing and conversing with a certain class of men, and this made it
difficult for him to assimilate himself to a wholly different class.
Sumner's ardent temperament required constant self-control in this new
and trying position; and a man who continually reflects beforehand on his
own actions acquires an appearance of greater reserve than a person of
really cold nature.

Seward had thus far been the leader of the Free-soil and Republican
parties, not only before the country at large but in the Senate. It was
soon found, however, that Sumner was not only a more effective speaker,
but possessed greater resources for debate. Judge Story had noticed long
before that facts were so carefully and systematically arranged in
Sumner's mind that whatever spring was touched he could always respond to
the subject with a full and exact statement. He was like a librarian who
could lay his hand on the book he wanted without having to look for it in
the catalogue,--and this upon a scale which seems almost incredible.
Webster possessed the same faculty, but united it with a sense of
artistic beauty which Sumner could not equal.

Sumner, however, was the best orator in Congress at this time, as well as
the best legal authority. On all constitutional questions it was felt
that he had Judge Story's support behind him. His oration on "Freedom
National, Slavery Sectional," was a revelation, not only to the
opposition, but to his own party. From that time forth, he became the
spokesman of his party on all the more important questions.

It frequently happens that the essential character of a government
changes while its form remains the same. In 1801 France was nominally a
Republic, but its administration was Imperial. In 1853 the United States
ceased to be a democracy and became an oligarchy, governed by thirty
thousand slave-holders,--until the people reconquered their rights on the
field of battle. Accustomed to despotic power in their own States for
more than two generations, and justifying themselves always by divine
right, the slave-holders possessed all the self-confidence, pretension,
and arrogance of the old French nobility. They were a self-deluded class
of men, of all classes the most difficult to deal with, and Sumner was
the Mirabeau who faced them at Washington and who pricked the bubble of
their Olympian pretensions by a most pitiless exposure of their true

Those men had come to believe that the ownership of slaves was equivalent
to a patent of nobility, and they were encouraged in this monarchical
illusion by the nobility of Europe. In Disraeli's "Lothair" an English
duke is made to say: "I consider an American with large estates in the
South a genuine aristocrat." The pretension was ridiculous, and the only
way to combat it was to make it appear so. Sumner characterized Butler,
of South Carolina, and Douglas, of Illinois, who was their northern man
of business, as the Don Quixote and Sancho Panza of an antiquated cause.
The satire hit its mark only too exactly; and two days later Sumner was
assaulted for it in an assassin-like manner,--struck on the head from
behind while writing at his desk, and left senseless on the floor. Sumner
was considered too low in the social scale for the customary challenge to
a duel, and there was no court in Washington that would take cognizance
of the outrage.

The following day, when Wilson made the most eloquent speech of his life
in an indignant rebuke to Butler and Brooks, Butler started from his seat
to attack him, but was held back by his friends. They might as well have
allowed him to go, for Wilson was a man of enormous strength and could
easily have handled any Southerner upon the floor.

In "The Crime against Kansas" there are two or three sentences which
Sumner afterwards expunged, and this shows that he regretted having said
them; but it is the greatest of his orations, and Webster's reply to
Hayne is the only Congressional address with which it can be compared.
One is in fact the sequence of the other; Webster's is the flower, and
Sumner's the fruit; the former directed against the active principle of
sedition, and the latter against its consequences; and both were directed
against South Carolina, where the war originated. Sumner's speech has not
the finely sculptured character of Webster's, but its architectural
structure is grand and impressive. His Baconian division of the various
excuses that were made for the Kansas outrages into "the apology
_tyrannical_, the apology _imbecile_, the apology _absurd_, and the apology
_infamous_," was original and pertinent.

Preston S. Brooks only lived about six months after his assault on
Sumner, and some of the abolitionists thought he died of a guilty
conscience. Both in feature and expression he bore a decided likeness to
J. Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Lincoln. It might have proved
the death of Sumner, but for the devotion of his Boston physician, Dr.
Marshall S. Perry, who went to him without waiting to be telegraphed for.
It was also fortunate for him that his brother George, a very intelligent
man, happened to be in America instead of Europe, where he lived the
greater part of his life. The assault on Sumner strengthened the
Republican party, and secured his re-election to the Senate; but it
produced nervous irritation of the brain and spinal cord, a disorder
which can only be cured under favorable conditions, and even then is
likely to return if the patient is exposed to a severe mental strain.
Sumner's cure by Dr. Brown-Sequard was considered a remarkable one, and
has a place in the history of medicine. The effect of bromide and ergot
was then unknown, and the doctor made such good use of his cauterizing-
iron that on one occasion, at least, Sumner declared that he could not
endure it any longer. Neither could he tell positively whether it was
this treatment or the baths which he afterwards took at Aix-les-Bains
that finally cured him. His own calm temperament and firmness of mind may
have contributed to this as much as Dr. Brown-Sequard.

When Sumner returned to Boston, early in 1860, all his friends went to
Dr. S. G. Howe to know if he was really cured, and Howe said: "He is a
well man, but he will never be able to make another two hours' speech."
Yet Sumner trained himself and tested his strength so carefully that in
the following spring he delivered his oration on the barbarism of
slavery, more than an hour in length, before the Senate; and in 1863 he
made a speech three hours in length, a herculean effort that has never
been equalled, except by Hamilton's address before the Constitutional
Convention of 1787.

I remember Sumner in the summer of 1860 walking under my father's grape
trellis, when the vines were in blossom, with his arms above his head,
and saying: "This is like the south of France." To think of Europe, its
art, history, and scenery, was his relaxation from the cares and
excitement of politics; but there were many who did not understand this,
and looked upon it as an affectation. Sumner in his least serious moments
was often self-conscious, but never affected. He talked of himself as an
innocent child talks. On all occasions he was thoroughly real and
sincere, and he would sometimes be as much abashed by a genuine
compliment as a maiden of seventeen.

At the same time Sumner was so great a man that it was simply impossible
to disguise it, and he made no attempt to do this. The principle that all
men are created equal did not apply in his case. To realize this it was
only necessary to see him and Senator Wilson together. Wilson was also a
man of exceptional ability, and yet a stranger, who did not know him by
sight, might have conversed with him on a railway train without
suspecting that he was a member of the United States Senate; but this
could not have happened in Sumner's case. Every one stared at him as he
walked the streets; and he could not help becoming conscious of this.
That there were moments when he seemed to reflect with satisfaction on
his past life his best friends could not deny; but the vanity that is
born of a frivolous spirit was not in him. He was more like a Homeric
hero than a Sir Philip Sidney, and considering the work he had to do it
was better on the whole that he should be so.

He carried the impracticable theory of social equality to an extent
beyond that of most Americans, and yet he was frequently complained of
for his reserve and aristocratic manners. The range of his acquaintance
was the widest of any man of his time. It extended from Lord Brougham to
J. B. Smith, the mulatto caterer of Boston, who, like many of his race,
was a person of gentlemanly deportment, and was always treated by Sumner
as a valued friend. As the champion of the colored race in the Senate
this was diplomatically necessary; but to the rank and file of his own
party he was less gracious. He had not grown up among them, but had
entered politics at the top, so that even their faces were unfamiliar to
him. The representatives of Massachusetts, who voted for him at the State
House, were sometimes chagrined at the coldness of his recognition,--a
coldness that did not arise from lack of sympathy, but from ignorance of
the individual. Before Sumner could treat a stranger in a friendly
manner, he wished to know what sort of a person he had to deal with.
There is a kind of insincerity in universal cordiality,--like that of the
candidate who is seeking to obtain votes.

A recent writer, who complains of Sumner's lack of graciousness, would do
well to ask his conscience what the reason for it was. If he will drop
the three last letters of his own name the solution will be apparent to

The more Sumner became absorbed in public affairs the less he seemed to
be suited to general society,--or general society to him. He was always
ready to talk on those subjects that interested him, but in general
conversation, in the pleasant give-and-take of wit and anecdote, he did
not feel so much at home as he had in his Cambridge days. His thoughts
were too serious, and the tendency of his mind was argumentative.

Every man is to a certain extent the victim of his occupation; and the
formalities of the Senate were ever tightening their grasp on Sumner's
mode of life. One afternoon, as he was leaving Dr. Howe's garden at South
Boston, the doctor's youngest daughter ran out from the house, and called
to him, "Good-bye, Mr. Sumner." His back was already turned, but he faced
about like an officer on parade, and said with formal gravity: "Good
evening, child," so that Mrs. Howe could not avoid laughing at him. Yet
Sumner was fond of children in his youth. L. Maria Child heard of this
incident and made good use of it in one of her story-books.

The grand fact in Sumner's character, however, rests beyond dispute that
he never aspired to the Presidency. That lingering Washington malady
which victimized Clay, Webster, Calhoun, Seward, Chase, Sherman, and
Blaine, and made them appear almost like sinners in torment, never
attacked Sumner. He had accepted office as a patriotic duty, and, like
Washington, he was ready to resign it whenever his work would be done.

Sumner's speech on the barbarism of slavery, timed as it was to meet the
Baltimore convention, was evidently intended to drive a wedge into the
split between the Northern and Southern Democrats, but it also must have
encouraged the secession movement. Sumner, however, can hardly be blamed
for this, after the indignity he had suffered. That a high member of the
Government could have been assaulted with impunity in open day indicated
a condition of affairs in the United States not unlike that of France at
the time when Count Toliendal was judicially murdered by Louis XV.
Washington City was an oligarchical despotism.

A dark cloud hung over the Republic during the winter of 1860-'61. The
impending danger was that war would break out before Lincoln could be
inaugurated. Such secrecy was observed by the Republican leaders that
even Horace Greeley could not fathom their intentions. Late in December
John A. Andrew and George L. Stearns went to Washington to survey the
ground for themselves, and the latter wrote to William Robinson, "The
watchword is, _keep quiet_." He probably obtained this from Sumner,
and it gives the key to the whole situation.

It demolishes Von Hoist's finely-spun melodramatic theory in regard to
that period of our history, in which he finally compares the condition of
the United States to a drowning man who sees lurid flames before his
eyes. In the Republican and Union parties there were all shades of
compromise sentiment,--from those who were ready to sacrifice anything in
order to prevent secession, to Abraham Lincoln, who was only willing to
surrender the barren and unpopulated State of New Mexico to the
slaveholders. [Footnote: A not unreasonable proposition.] But Sumner,
Wade, Trumbull, Wilson, and King stood together like a rocky coast
against which the successive waves of compromise dashed without effect.
Von Hoist was notified of this fact years before the last volume of his
history was published, but he disregarded it evidently because it
interfered with his favorite theory.

The last of January, however, a report was circulated in Boston that
Sumner had joined the compromisers for the sake of consistency with the
peace principles which he had advocated in his Fourth of July oration.
Boston newspapers made the most of this, although it did not seem likely
to Sumner's friends, and George L. Stearns finally wrote to him for
permission to make a denial of it. Sumner first replied to him by
telegraph saying: "I am against sending commissioners to treat of
surrender by the North. Stand firm." Then he wrote him this memorable

WASHINGTON, 3d Feb., '61.

My Dear Sir:

There are but few who stand rooted, like the oak, against a storm. This
is the nature of man. Let us be patient.

My special trust is this: _No possible compromise or concession will be
of the least avail._ Events are hastening which will supersede all
such things. This will save us. But I like to see Mass. in this breaking
up of the Union ever true. God keep her from playing the part of Judas
or--of Peter! You may all bend or cry pardon--I will not. Here I am, and
I mean to stand firm to the last. God bless you!

Ever yours,


The handwriting of this letter is magnificent. Sumner had a strongly
characteristic hand with something of artistic grace in it, too; but in
this instance his writing seems like the external expression of the mood
he was in when he wrote the letter.

The question may be asked, Why then did not Sumner rise in the Senate and
make one of his telling speeches against compromise during that long,
wearisome session? I think the answer will be found in the watchword:
"Keep quiet!" He perfectly understood the game that Seward was playing
and he was too wise to interfere with it. Seward was the cat and
compromise was the mouse. Whatever mistakes he may have afterwards made,
Seward at this time showed a master hand. He encouraged compromise, but
he must have been aware that the proposed constitutional amendment, which
would forever have prevented legislation against slavery, would not have
been confirmed by the Northern States. He could easily count the
legislatures that would reject it. It finally passed through Congress on
the last night of this session by a single vote, and was ratified by only
three States!

As soon as Lincoln was inaugurated there was no more talk of compromise,
and Seward was firmness itself. He declined to receive the disunion
commissioners; [Footnote: At the same time he coquetted with them
unofficially.] he compelled the Secretary of War to reinforce Fort
Pickens; he overhauled General Scott, who proved an impediment to
vigorous military operations. These facts tell their own tale.

After Seward and Chase had left the Senate Sumner was _facile
princeps_. Trumbull was a vigorous orator and a rough-rider in debate,
but he did not possess the store of legal knowledge and the vast fund of
general information which Sumner could draw from. One has to read the
fourth volume of Pierce's biography to realize the dimensions of Sumner's
work during the period from 1861 to 1869. Military affairs he never
interfered with, but he was Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs,
the most important in the Senate, and in the direction of home politics
he was second to none. No other voice was heard so often in the
legislative halls at Washington, and none heard with more respect. A list
of the bills that he introduced and carried through would fill a long

The test of statesmanship is to change from the opposition to the
leadership in a Government,--from critical to constructive politics. Carl
Schurz was a fine orator and an effective speaker on the minority side,
but he commenced life as a revolutionist and always remained one. If he
had once attempted to introduce legislation, he would have shown his
weakness, exactly where Sumner proved his strength. Froude says that to
be great in politics "is to recognize a popular movement, and to have the
courage and address to lead it"; but three times Sumner planted his
standard away in advance of his party, and stood by it alone until his
followers came up to him.

He was always in advance of his party, but conspicuously so in regard to
the abolition of slavery, the exposure of Andrew Johnson's perfidy, and
the reconstruction of the rebellious States. We might add the annexation
of San Domingo as a fourth; for I believe there are few thinking persons
at present who do not feel grateful to him for having saved the country
from that uncomfortable acquisition.

The bill to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia was introduced by
Wilson. Sumner did not like to be always proposing anti-slavery measures
himself, and he wished Wilson to have the honor of it. Wilson would not,
of course, have introduced the measure without consulting his colleague.

Lincoln evidently desired to enjoy the sole honor of issuing the
Emancipation Proclamation of 1862, and he deserved to have it; but Sumner
thought it might safely have been done after the battles of Fort
Donaldson and Shiloh, and the victories of Foote and Farragut on the
Mississippi, six months before it was issued; and he urged to have it
done at that time. Whether his judgment was correct in this, it is
impossible to decide.

Early in July, 1862, he introduced a bill in the Senate for the
organization of the "contrabands" and other negroes into regiments,--a
policy suggested by Hamilton in 1780,--and no one can read President
Lincoln's Message to Congress in December, 1864, without recognizing that
it was only with the assistance of negro troops that the Union was
finally preserved.

In spite of the continued differences between Sumner and Seward on
American questions they worked together like one man in regard to foreign
politics. Sumner's experience in Europe and his knowledge of public men
there was much more extensive than Seward's, and in this line he was of
invaluable assistance to the Secretary of State.

Lowell could make a holiday of six years at the Court of St. James, but
during the war it was a serious matter to be Minister to England. In the
summer of 1863 affairs there had reached a climax. The _Alabama_ and
_Florida_ were scaring all American ships from the ocean, and five
ironclad rams, built for the confederate government, were nearly ready to
put to sea from English ports. If this should happen it seemed likely
that they would succeed in raising the blockade. As a final resort
Lincoln and Seward sent word to Adams to threaten the British Government
with war unless the rams were detained.

Meanwhile it was necessary to brace up the American people to meet the
possible emergency. On September 10 Sumner addressed an audience of three
thousand persons in Cooper Institute, New York, for three hours on the
foreign relations of the United States; and there were few who left the
hall before it was finished. He arraigned the British Government for its
inconsistency, its violation of international law, and its disregard of
the rights of navigators. It was not only a heroic effort, but a self-
sacrificing one; for Sumner knew that it would separate him forever from
the larger number of his English friends.

At the same time Minister Adams had an equally difficult task before him.
War with England seemed to be imminent. He held a long consultation with
Benjamin Moran, the Secretary of Legation, and they finally concluded to
see if an opinion could be obtained on the confederate rams from an
English legal authority. They went to Sir Robert Colyer, one of the lords
of the admiralty, and asked him if he was willing to give them an
opinion. He replied that he considered the law above politics, and that
he wished to do what was right. After investigating the subject Colyer
made a written statement to the effect that the United States was wholly
justified in demanding detention of the rams. Adams then placed this
opinion together with Lincoln's notification before the British Cabinet,
but the papers were returned to him with a refusal of compliance. "There
is nothing now," said Adams to Moran, "but for us to pack up and go
home"; but Moran replied, "Let us wait a little; while there is life
there is hope"; and the same evening Adams was notified that Her
Majesty's Government still had the subject under consideration. The rams
proved a dead loss.

When Benjamin Moran related this incident to the Philadelphia Hock Club
after his return, he added: "We owe it to our Irish-American citizens as
much as to the monitors that we did not suffer from English

Seward, and also Chase, wished to issue letters of reprisal to privateers
to go in search of the _Alabama_, but Sumner opposed this in an able
speech on the importance of maintaining a high standard of procedure for
the good reputation of the country; and he carried his point.

Sumner's greatest parliamentary feat was occasioned by Trumbull's
introduction of a bill for the reconstruction of Louisiana in the winter
of 1864. There were only ten thousand loyal white voters in the State;
and nothing could be more imprudent or prejudicial than such a hasty
attempt at reorganization of the rebellious South, before the war was
fairly ended. It was like a man building an annex to one side of his
house while the other side was on fire; yet it was known to be supported
by Seward, and, as was alleged, also by Lincoln. It was thrust upon
Congress at the last moment, evidently in order to prevent an extended
debate, and Sumner turned this to his own advantage. For two days and
nights his voice resounded through the Senate chamber, until, with the
assistance of his faithful allies, Wade and Wilson, he succeeded in
preventing the bill from being brought to a vote. It was an extreme
instance of human endurance, without parallel before or since, and may
possibly have shortened Sumner's life. Five weeks later President
Lincoln, in his last speech, made the significant proposition of
universal amnesty combined with universal suffrage. Would that he could
have lived to see the completion of his work!

Something may be said here of Sumner's influence with Mrs. Lincoln. If
Don Piatt is to be trusted, Mrs. Lincoln came to Washington with a
strong feeling of antipathy towards Seward and "those eastern
abolitionists." She was born in a slave state and had remained pro-
slavery,--a fact which did not trouble her husband because he did not
allow it to trouble him. Fifteen months in Washington brought a decided
change in her opinions, and Sumner would seem to have been instrumental
in this conversion. It is well known that she preferred his society to
that of others. She had studied French somewhat, and he encouraged her to
talk it with him,--which was looked upon, of course, as an affectation on
both sides.

At the time of General McClellan's removal, October, 1862, Mrs. Lincoln
was at the Parker House in Boston. Sumner called on her in the forenoon,
and she said at once: "I suppose you have heard the news, and that you
are glad of it. So am I. Mr. Lincoln told me he expected to remove him
before I left Washington."

Sumner resembled Charles XII. of Sweden in this: there is no evidence
that he ever was in love. His devotion to the law in early life,
surrounded as he was by interesting friends, may have been antagonistic
to matrimony. The woman he ought to have married was the noble daughter
of his old friend, Cornelius Felton, whom he often met, but whose worth
he never recognized. The marriage which he contracted late in life was
not based on enduring principles, and soon came to a grievous end. It was
more like the marriages that princes make than a true republican
courtship. Sumner apparently wanted a handsome wife to preside at his
dinner parties in Washington, but he chose her from among his opponents
instead of from among his friends.

Since there has been much foolish talk upon this subject, it may be well
to state here that the true difficulty between Mr. and Mrs. Sumner was
owing to the company which he invited to his house. She only wished to
entertain fashionable people, but a large proportion of Sumner's friends
could not be included within these narrow limits. As Senator from
Massachusetts that would not do for him at all. This is the explanation
that was given by Mrs. Sumner's brother, and it is without doubt the
correct one; but women in such cases are apt to allege something
different from the true reason.

Sumner's most signal triumph happened on the occasion of President
Johnson's first Message to Congress in January, 1865. He rose from his
seat and characterized it as a "whitewashing document." That day he stood
alone, yet within six weeks every Republican Senator was at his side.

Sumner knew how to be silent as well as to talk. On one occasion he was
making a speech in the Senate when he suddenly heard Schuyler Colfax
behind him saying, "This is all very good, Sumner, but here I have the
Appropriation bills from the House, and the Democrats know nothing about
them." Sumner instantly resumed his seat, and the bills were acted on
without serious opposition. He would sometimes sit through a dinner at
the Bird Club without saying very much, but if he once started on a
subject that interested him there was no limit to it.

Sumner's speech on the "Alabama claims" was considered a failure because
the administration did not afterwards support him; and it is true that no
government would submit to a demand for adventitious damages so long as
it could prevent this; but it was a far-reaching exposure of an
unprincipled foreign policy, and this speech formed the groundwork for
the Treaty of Washington and the Geneva arbitration. It was a more
important case than the settlement of the Northeastern boundary.

Sumner died the death of a hero. The administration of General Grant
might well be called the recoil of the cannon: it was the reactionary
effect of a great military movement on civil affairs. Sumner alone
withstood the shock of it, and he fought against it for four years like a
veteran on his last line of defence, feeling victory was no longer
possible. Many of his friends found the current too strong for them; his
own party deserted him; even the Legislature of his own State turned
against him in a senseless and irrational manner. Still his spirit was
unconquerable, and he continued to face the storm as long as life was in
him. It was a magnificent spectacle.

It was the last battlefield of a veteran warrior, and although Sumner
retired from it with a mortal wound, he had the satisfaction of winning a
glorious victory. No end could have been more appropriate to such a life.
_Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori._

Since Richard Coeur de Leon forgave Bertram de Gordon, who caused his
death, there has never been a more magnanimous man than Charles Sumner.
Once when L. Maria Child was anathematizing Preston S. Brooks in his
presence, he said: "You should not blame him. It was slavery and not
Brooks that struck me. If Brooks had been born and brought up in New
England, he would no more have done the thing he did than Caleb Cushing
would have done it,"--Cushing always being his type of a pro-slavery

In 1871 Charles W. Slack, the editor of the Boston _Commonwealth_,
for whom Sumner had obtained a lucrative office, turned against his
benefactor in order to save his position. When I spoke of this to Sumner,
he said: "Well, it is human nature. Slack is growing old, and if he keeps
his office for the next six years, he will have a competency. I have no
doubt he feels grateful to me, and regrets the course he is taking." At
the same time, he spoke sadly.

Sumner resembled Lord Chatham more closely than any statesman of the
nineteenth century. He carried his measures through by pure force of
argument and clearness of foresight. From 1854 to 1874 it was his policy
that prevailed in the councils of the nation. He succeeded where others

He defeated Franklin Pierce, Seward, Trumbull, Andrew Johnson, Hamilton
Fish, and even Lincoln, on the extradition of Mason and Slidell. He tied
Johnson down, so that he could only move his tongue.

In considering Sumner's oratory, we should bear in mind what Coleridge
said to Allston, the painter,--"never judge a work of art by its
defects." His sentences have not the classic purity of Webster's, and his
delivery lacked the ease and elegance of Phillips and Everett. His style
was often too florid and his Latin quotations, though excellent in
themselves, were not suited to the taste of his audiences. But Sumner was
always strong and effective, and that is, after all, the main point. Like
Webster he possessed a logical mind, and the profound earnestness of his
nature gave an equally profound conviction to his words. Besides this,
Sumner possessed the heroic element, as Patrick Henry and James Otis
possessed it. After Webster's death there was no American speaker who
could hold an audience like him.

Matthew Arnold, in his better days, said that Burke's oratory was too
rich and overloaded. This is true, but it is equally true that Burke is
the only orator of the eighteenth century that still continues to be
read. He had a faulty delivery and an ungainly figure, but if he emptied
the benches in the House of Commons he secured a larger audience in
coming generations. The material of his speeches is of such a vital
quality that it possesses a value wholly apart from the time and occasion
of its delivery.

Much the same is true of Sumner, who would have had decidedly the
advantage of Burke so far as personal impressiveness is concerned. His
Phi Beta Kappa address of 1845 is so rich in material that it is even
more interesting to read now than when it was first delivered, and his
remarks on Allston in that oration might be considered to advantage by
every art critic in the country. It should always be remembered that a
speech, like a play, is written not to be read, but to be acted; and
those discourses which read so finely in the newspapers are not commonly
the ones that sounded the best when they were delivered.

Great men create great antagonisms. The antagonism which Lincoln excited
was concentrated in Booth's pistol shot, and the Montagues and Capulets
became reconciled over his bier; but the antagonism against Sumner still
continues to smoke and smoulder like the embers of a dying conflagration.


The finest modern statue in Berlin is that of General Ziethen, the great
Hussar commander in the Seven Years' War. [Footnote: Von Schlater's
statue of the Great Elector is of course a more magnificent work of art.]
He stands leaning on his sabre in a dreamy, nonchalant attitude, as if he
were in the centre of indifference and life had little interest for him.
Yet there never was a man more ready for action, or more quick to seize
upon and solve the _nodus_ of any new emergency. The Prussian
anecdote-books are full of his exploits and hairbreadth escapes, a number
of which are represented around the base of the statue. He combined the
intelligence of the skilful general with the physical dexterity of an

Very much such a man was Samuel Gridley Howe, born in Boston November 10,
1801, whom Whittier has taken as the archetype of an American hero in his

If a transient guest at the Bird Club should have seen Doctor Howe
sitting at the table with his indifferent, nonchalant air, head leaning
slightly forward and his grayish-black hair almost falling into his eyes,
he would never have imagined that he was the man who had fought the Turks
hand-to-hand like Cervantes and Sir John Smith; who had been imprisoned
in a Prussian dungeon; who had risked his life in the July Revolution at
Paris; and who had taken the lead in an equally important philanthropic
revolution in his own country.

Next to Sumner he is the most distinguished member of the club, even more
so than Andrew and Wilson; a man with a most enviable record. He does not
talk much where many are gathered together, but if he hears an imprudent
statement, especially an unjust estimate of character, his eyes flash out
from beneath the bushy brows, and he makes a correction which just hits
the nail on the head. He is fond of his own home and is with difficulty
enticed away from it. Once in awhile he will dash out to Cambridge on
horseback to see Longfellow, but the lion-huntresses of Boston spread
their nets in vain for him. He will not even go to the dinner parties for
which Mrs. Howe is in constant demand, but prefers to spend the evening
with his children, helping them about their school lessons, and listening
to the stories of their everyday experiences.

There never was a more modest, unostentatious hero; and no one has
recorded his hairbreadth escapes and daring adventures, for those who
witnessed them never told the tale, nor would Doctor Howe willingly speak
of them himself. He was of too active a temperament to be much of a
scholar in his youth, although in after life he went through with
whatever he undertook in a thorough and conscientious manner. He went to
Brown University, and appears to have lived much the same kind of life
there which Lowell did at Harvard,--full of good spirits, admired by his
classmates, as well as by the young ladies of Providence, and
exceptionally fond of practical jokes; always getting into small
difficulties and getting out of them again with equal facility. He was so
amiable and warm-hearted that nobody could help loving him; and so it
continued to the end of his life.

He could not himself explain exactly why he joined the Greek Revolution.
He had suffered himself while at school from the tyranny of older boys,
and this strengthened the sense of right and justice that had been
implanted in his nature. He had not the romantic disposition of Byron;
neither could he have gone from a desire to win the laurels of Miltiades,
for he never indicated the least desire for celebrity. It seems more
likely that his adventurous disposition urged him to it, as one man takes
to science and another to art.

It was certainly a daring adventure to enlist as a volunteer against the
Turks. Byron might expect that whatever advantage wealth and reputation
can obtain for an individual he could always count upon; but what chances
would young Howe have in disaster or defeat? I never heard that Byron did
much fighting, though he spent his fortune freely in the cause; and
Doctor Howe, as it happened, was not called upon to fight in line of
battle, though he was engaged in some pretty hot skirmishes and risked
himself freely.

He went to Greece in the summer of 1824 and remained till after the
battle of Navarino in 1827. Greece was saved, but the land was a desert
and its people starving. Doctor Howe returned to America to raise funds
and beg provisions for liberated Hellas, in which he was remarkably
successful; but we find also that he published a history of the Greek
Revolution, the second edition of which is dated 1828. For this he must
have collected the materials before leaving Greece; but as it contains an
account of the sea-fight of Navarino, it must have been finished after
his return to America. The book was hastily written, and hastily
published. To judge from appearances it was hurried through the press
without being revised either by its author or a competent proofreader;
but it is a vigorous, spirited narrative, and the best chronicle of that
period in English. Would there were more such histories, even if the
writing be not always grammatical. Doctor Howe does not sentimentalize
over the ruins of Sparta or Plato's Academy, but he describes Greece as
he found it, and its inhabitants as he knew them. He possesses what so
many historians lack, and that is the graphic faculty. He writes in a
better style than either Motley or Bancroft. His book ought to be revised
and reprinted.

We quote from it this clearsighted description of the preparation for a
Graeco-Turkish sea-fight:

"Soon the proud fleet of the Capitan Pashaw was seen coming down
toward Samos, and the Greek vessels advanced to meet it. And here
one cannot but pause a moment to compare the two parties, and
wonder at the contrast between them. On one side bore down a long line
of lofty ships whose very size and weight seemed to give them
a slow and stately motion; completely furnished at every point for
war; their decks crowded with splendidly armed soldiers, and their
sides chequered with double and triple-rows of huge cannon that it
seemed could belch forth a mass of iron which nothing could resist.
On the other side came flying along the waves a squadron of light
brigs and schooners, beautifully modelled, with sails of snowy white,
and with fancifully painted sides, showing but a single row of
tiny cannon. There seemed no possibility of a contest; one fleet
had only to sail upon the other, and by its very weight, bear the
vessels under water without firing a gun.

"But the feelings which animated them were very different. The Turks
were clumsy sailors; they felt ill at ease and as if in a new
element; but above all, they felt a dread of Greek fire-ships,
which made them imagine every vessel that approached them to be
one. The Greeks were at home on the waves,--active and fearless
mariners, they knew that they could run around a Turkish frigate
and not be injured; they knew the dread their enemies had of
fire-ships, and they had their favorite, the daring Kanaris, with

* * * * *

The heroic deeds of the modern Greeks fully equalled those of the
ancients; and the death of Marco Bozzaris was celebrated in all the
languages of western Europe. William Muller, the German poet, composed a
volume of fine lyrics upon the incidents of the Greek Revolution; so that
after his death the Greek Government sent a shipload of marble to Germany
for the construction of his monument.

One day Doctor Howe, with a small party of followers, was anchored in a
yawl off the Corinthian coast, when a Turk crept down to the shore and
commenced firing at them from behind a large tree. After he had done this
twice, the doctor calculated where he would appear the third time, and
firing at the right moment brought him down with his face to the earth.
Doctor Howe often fired at Turks in action, but this was the only one
that he felt sure of having killed; and he does not appear to have even
communicated the fact to his own family.

After Doctor Howe's triumphant return to Greece with a cargo of
provisions in 1828 he was appointed surgeon-general of the Greek navy,
and finally, as a reward for all his services, he received a present of
Byron's cavalry helmet,--certainly a rare trophy. [Footnote: This helmet
hung for many years on the hat tree at Dr. Howe's house in South Boston.]

Doctor Howe's mysterious imprisonment in Berlin in 1832 is the more
enigmatical since Berlin has generally been the refuge of the oppressed
from other European countries. The Huguenots, expelled by Louis XIV.,
went to Berlin in such numbers that they are supposed by Menzel to have
modified the character of its inhabitants. The Salzburg refugees were
welcomed in Prussia by Frederick William I., who had an official hanged
for embezzling funds that were intended for their benefit. In 1770
Frederick the Great gave asylum to the Jesuits who had been expelled from
every Catholic capital in Europe; and when the brothers Grimm and other
professors were banished from Cassel for their liberalism, they were
received and given positions by Frederick William IV. Why then should the
Prussian government have interfered with Doctor Howe, after he had
completed his philanthropic mission to the Polish refugees? Why was he
not arrested in the Polish camp when he first arrived there?

The futile and tyrannical character of this proceeding points directly to
Metternich, who at that time might fairly be styled the Tiberias of
Germany. The Greek Revolution was hateful to Metternich, and he did what
he could to prevent its success. His intrigues in England certainly
delayed the independence of Greece for two years and more. He foresaw
clearly enough that its independence would be a constant annoyance to the
Austrian government,--and so it has proved down to the present time.
Metternich imagined intrigues and revolution in every direction; and
besides, there can be no doubt of the vindictiveness of his nature. The
cunning of the fox is not often combined with the supposed magnanimity of
the lion.

The account of his arrest, which Doctor Howe gave George L. Stearns,
differs very slightly from that in Sanborn's biography. According to the
former he persuaded the Prussian police, on the ground of decency, to
remain outside his door until he could dress himself. In this way he
gained time to secrete his letters. He tore one up and divided the small
pieces in various places. While he was doing this he noticed a bust of
some king of Prussia on top of the high porcelain stove which forms a
part of the furniture of every large room in Berlin. Concluding it must
be hollow he tipped it on edge and inserted the rest of his letters
within. The police never discovered this stratagem, but they searched his
room in the most painstaking manner, collecting all the pieces of the
letter he had torn up, so that they read every word of it. Whether his
letters were really of a compromising character, or he was only afraid
that they might be considered so, has never been explained.

The day after his arrest he was brought before a tribunal and asked a
multitude of questions, which he appears to have answered willingly
enough; and a week or more later the same examiners made a different set
of inquiries of him, all calculated to throw light upon his former
answers. Doctor Howe admitted afterwards that if he had attempted to
deceive them they would certainly have discovered the fact. He was in
prison five weeks, for which the Prussian government had the impudence to
charge him board; and why President Jackson did not demand an apology and
reparation for this outrage on a United States citizen is not the least
mysterious part of the affair.

A good Samaritan does not always find a good Samaritan. After his return
to Paris Doctor Howe went to England, but was taken so severely ill on
the way that he did not know what might have become of him but for an
English passenger with whom he had become acquainted and who carried him
to his own house and cared for him until he was fully recovered. This
excellent man, name now forgotten, had a charming daughter who materially
assisted in Howe's convalescence, and he said afterwards that if he had
not been strongly opposed to matrimony at that time she would probably
have become his wife. He was not married until ten years later; but he
always remembered this incident as one of the pleasantest in his life.

The true hero never rests on his laurels. Doctor Howe had no sooner
returned from Europe than he set himself to work on a design he had
conceived in Paris for the instruction of the blind. Next to Doctor
Morton's discovery of etherization, there has been no undertaking equal
to this for the amelioration of human misery. He brought the best methods
from Europe, and improved upon them. Beginning at first in a small way,
and with such means as he could obtain from the merchants of Boston, he
went on to great achievements. He had the most difficulty in dealing with
legislative appropriations and enactments, for as he was not acquainted
with the ruling class in Massachusetts, they consequently looked upon him
with suspicion. He not only made the plan, but he carried it out; he
organized the institution at South Boston and set the machinery in

The story of Laura Bridgman is a tale told in many languages. The deaf
and blind girl whom Doctor Howe taught to read and to _think_ soon
became as celebrated as Franklin or Webster. She was between seven and
eight years old when he first discovered her near Hanover, N. H., and for
five years and a half she had neither seen nor heard. It is possible that
she could remember the external world in a dim kind of way, and she must
have learned to speak a few words before she lost her hearing. Doctor
Howe taught her the names of different objects by pasting them in raised
letters on the objects about her, and he taught her to spell by means of
separate blocks with the letters upon them. She then was taught to read
after the usual method of instructing the blind, and communicated with
her fingers after the manner of deaf mutes. Doctor Howe said in his
report of the case:

"Hitherto, the process had been mechanical, and the success about as
great as teaching a very knowing dog a variety of tricks. The poor child
had sat in mute amazement and patiently imitated everything her teacher
did; but now the truth began to flash upon her; her intellect began to
work; she perceived that here was a way by which she could herself make
up a sign of anything that was in her own mind, and show it to another
mind, and at once her countenance lighted up with a human expression; it
was no longer a dog or parrot,--it was an immortal spirit, eagerly
seizing upon a new link of union with other spirits!"

Finally she was educated in the meaning of the simplest abstract terms
like right and wrong, happy and sad, crooked and straight, and in this
she evinced great intelligence, for she described being alone as _all
one_, and being together _all two_,--the original meaning of
alone and altogether, which few persons think of. In trying to express
herself where she found some difficulty she made use of agglutinative
forms of speech. [Footnote: Like the Aztecs, Kanackers and other
primitive races.]

The education of Laura has rare value as a psychological study; for it
proves incontestably that mind is a thing in itself, and not merely a
combination of material forces, as the philosophers of our time would
have us believe. Laura Bridgman's mind was there, though wholly unable to
express itself, and so soon as the magic key was turned, she developed as
rapidly and intelligently as other girls of her age. She soon became much
more intelligent than the best trained dog who has all his senses in an
acute condition; and she developed a sensibility toward those about her
such as Indian or Hottentot girls of the same age would not have done at
all. She soon began to indicate that sense of order which is the first
step on the stairway of civilization. If these qualities had not been in
her they never could have come out.

Why is it that so many superior women remain unmarried, and why do men of
superior intellect and exceptional character so often mate themselves
with weak or narrow-minded women? That a diffident man, with a taste for
playing on the flute, should be captured by a virago, is not so
remarkable,--that is his natural weakness; but it is also true that the
worthiest man often chooses indifferently. This thing they call matrimony
is in fact like diving for pearls: you bring up the oyster, but what it
contains does not appear until afterward. A friend of Sumner, who
imagined his wife had a beautiful nature because she was fond of wild-
flowers, discovered too late that she cared more for botany than for her

Chevalier Howe met with better fortune. He waited long and to good
purpose. It was fitting that such a man should marry a poetess; and he
found her, not in her rose-garden or some romantic sylvan retreat, but in
the city of New York. Miss Julia Ward was the daughter, as she once
styled herself, of the Bank of Commerce, but her mind was not bent on
money or a fashionable life. She was graceful, witty and charming in the
drawing-room; but there was also a serious vein in her nature which could
only be satisfied by earnest thought and study. She went from one book to
another through the whole range of critical scholarship, disdaining
everything that was not of the best quality. She soon knew so much that
the young men became afraid of her, but she cared less for their
admiration than for her favorite authors. Above all, the deep religious
vein in her nature, which never left her, served as a balance to her
romantic disposition. Her first admirer is said to have been an eloquent
preacher who came to New York while Miss Ward was in her teens.

Another man might have crossed Julia Ward's path and only have remembered
her as a Sumner friend. Doctor Howe recognized the opportunity, and had
no intention of letting it slip. His reputation and exceptional character
attracted her; and he wooed and won her with the same courage that he
fought the Greeks. Her sister married Crawford, the best sculptor of his
time, whom Sumner helped to fame and fortune.

Doctor Howe's wedding journey, which included a complete tour of Europe,
seems to have been the first rest that he had taken in twenty years. Such
wedding journeys are frequent enough now, but it is a rare bride that
finds the doors of distinguished houses opened to her husband from
Edinburgh to Athens. Was it not a sufficient reward for any man's service
to humanity?

For that matter Doctor Howe's lifelong work received comparatively slight
recognition or reward. A few medals were sent to him from Europe,--a gold
one from the King of Prussia,--and he was always looked upon in Boston
as a distinguished citizen; but his vocation at the Blind Asylum withdrew
him from the public eye, and the public soon forgets what happened
yesterday. What a blaze of enthusiasm there was for Admiral Dewey in
1899, and how coldly his name was received as a presidential candidate
one year later!

Doctor Howe was once nominated for Congress as a forlorn hope, and his
name was thrice urged unavailingly for foreign appointments. He certainly
deserved to be made Minister to Greece, but President Johnson looked upon
him as a very "ultra man",--the real objection being no doubt that he was
a friend of Sumner, and the second attempt made by Sumner himself was
defeated by Hamilton Fish. Doctor Howe was fully qualified at any time to
be Minister to France, and as well qualified as James Russell Lowell for
the English Mission; but the appointment of such men as Lowell and Howe
has proved to be a happy accident rather than according to the natural
order of events. What reward did Doctor Morton ever obtain, until twenty-
five years after his death his name was emblazoned in memorial hall of
Boston State House! It is an old story.

Yet Doctor Howe may well be considered one of the most fortunate
Americans of his time. Lack of public appreciation is the least evil that
can befall a man of truly great spirit,--unless indeed it impairs the
usefulness of his work, and Edward Everett, who had sympathized so
cordially with Doctor Howe's efforts in behalf of the Greeks, could also
have told him sympathetically that domestic happiness was fully as
valuable as public honor. Fortunate is the man who has wandered much over
the earth and seen great sights, only the better to appreciate the quiet
and repose of his own hearth-stone! The storm and stress period of Doctor
Howe's life was over, and henceforth it was to be all blue sky and smooth

Sumner expressed a kind of regret at Doctor Howe's marriage,--a regret
for his own loneliness; but he found afterwards that instead of losing
one friend he had made another. His visits to South Boston were as
frequent as ever, and he often brought distinguished guests with him,--
English, French, and German. There was no lady in Boston whom he liked to
converse with so well as Mrs. Howe; and if he met her on the street he
would almost invariably stop to speak with her a few minutes. He
sometimes suffered from the keen sallies of her wit, but he accepted this
as part of the entertainment, and once informed her that if she were
president of the Senate it would be much better for the procedure of the
public business.

George Sumner also came; like his brother, a man much above the average
in general ability, and considered quite equal to the Delivery of a
Fourth of July oration. He was the more entertaining talker of the two,
and in other respects very much like Tom Appleton,--better known on the
Paris boulevards than in his native country. Instead of being witty like
Appleton he was brilliantly encyclopaedic; and they both carried their
statements to the verge of credibility.

Doctor Howe organized the blind asylum so that it almost ran itself
without his oversight, and as always happens in such cases he was
idolized by those who were under his direction. There was something
exceedingly kind in his tone of voice,--a voice accustomed to command and
yet much subdued. His manner towards children was particularly charming
and attractive. He exemplified the lines in Emerson's "Wood-notes":

"Grave, chaste, contented though retired,
And of all other men desired,"

applied to Doctor Howe more completely than to the person for whom they
were originally intended; for Thoreau's bachelor habits and isolated mode
of life prevented him from being an attractive person to the generality
of mankind.

It was said of James G. Blaine that he left every man he met with
the impression that he was his best friend. This may have been well
intended, but it has the effect of insincerity, for the thing is
practically impossible. The true gentleman has always a kind manner, but
he does not treat the man whom he has just been introduced to as a
friend; he waits for that until he shall know him better. It is said of
Americans generally that they are generous and philanthropic, but that
they do not make good friends,--that their idea of friendship depends too
much on association and the influence of mutual interests, instead of the
underlying sense of spiritual relationship. When they cease to have
mutual interests the friendship is at an end, or only continues to exist
on paper. Doctor Howe was as warm-hearted as he was firm-hearted, but he
never gave his full confidence to any one until he had read him through
to the backbone. His friends were so fond of him that they would go any
distance to see him. His idea of friendship seemed to be like that of the
friends in the sacred band of Thebes, whose motto was either to avenge
their comrades on the field of battle or to die with them.

He did not like a hypocritical morality, which he said too often resulted
in the hypocritical sort. He complained of this in Emerson's teaching,
which he thought led his readers to scrutinize themselves too closely as
well as to be too censorious of others; and he respected Emerson more for
his manly attitude on the Kansas question than for anything he wrote.

He always continued to be the chevalier. He was like Hawthorne's gray-
haired champion, who always came to the front in a public emergency, and
then disappeared, no one knew whither. When the Bond Street riot took
place in 1837, there was Doctor Howe succoring the oppressed; in 1844 he
joined the Conscience Whigs and was one of the foremost among them; he
helped materially toward the election of Sumner in 1851, and for years
afterwards was a leader in the vigilance committee organized to resist
the Fugitive Slave law. He stood shoulder to shoulder with George L.
Stearns in organizing resistance to the invasions of Kansas by the
Missourians; and again in 1862 when Harvard University made its last
desperate political effort in opposition to Lincoln's Emancipation
Proclamation; but when his friends and his party came into power Howe
neither asked nor hinted at any reward for his brilliant services.

Edward L. Pierce, the biographer of Sumner, was not above exhibiting his
prejudices as to certain members of the Bird Club, both by what he has
written and what he neglected to write. He says of the Chevalier: "Dr.
Howe, who had a passion for revolutions and civil disturbances of all
kinds, and had no respect for the restrictions of international law or
comity, was vexed with Sumner for not promoting the intervention of the
United States in behalf of the insurgent Cubans."

This reminds one of Boswell's treatment of Doctor Johnson's friends. Like
John Adams and Hampden, Doctor Howe was a revolutionary character,--and
so were Sumner and Lincoln,--but he was a man in all matters prudent,
discreet and practical. He was as much opposed to inflammatory harangues
and French socialistic notions as he was to the hide-bound conservatism
against which he had battled all his life. Like Hampden and Adams his
revolutionary strokes were well timed and right to the point. Experience
has proved them to be effective and salutary. It was the essential merit
of Sumner and his friends that they recognized the true character of the
times in which they lived and adapted themselves to it. Thousands of
well-educated men lived through the anti-slavery and civil war period
without being aware that they were taking part in one of the great
revolutionary epochs of history. That Doctor Howe and Senator Sumner
differed in regard to the Cuban rebellion is a matter of small moment.
Howe considered the interests of the Cubans; Sumner the interests of
republicanism in Spain and in Europe generally. Both were right from
their respective standpoints.

At the beginning of the war he was sixty years of age,--too old to take
an active part in it. This cannot be doubted, however, that if he had
been thirty years younger he would either have won distinction as a
commander or have fallen on the, field of honor. The best contribution
from the Howe family to the war was Julia Ward Howe's "Battle Hymn of the
Republic." The war was a grand moral struggle, a conflict of historical
forces; and neither Lowell, Emerson, nor Whittier expressed this so fully
and with such depth of feeling as Mrs. Howe. There are occasions when
woman rises superior to man, and this was one of them. It was evidently
inspired by the John Brown song, that simple martial melody; but it rises
above the personal and temporal into the universal and eternal. Its
measure has the swing of the Greek tragic chorus, extended to embrace the
wider scope of Christian faith, and its diction is of an equally classic
purity and vigor. The last stanza runs:

"In the beauty of the lily Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me.
As he died to make men holy let us die to make men free;
As we go marching on."

This was the fine fruit of Mrs. Howe's early religious faith. It welled
up in her nature from a deep undercurrent, which few would have suspected
who only met her at Sam G. Ward's dinner parties and other fashionable
entertainments. Yet, there was always a quiet reserve in her laughter,
and her wittiest remarks were always followed by a corresponding
seriousness of expression. Although she studied Spinoza, admired Emerson,
and attended meetings of the Radical Club on Chestnut Street, she never
separated herself from the Church, and always expressed her dissent from
any opinion that seemed to show a lack of reverence.

On a certain occasion when a member of the club spoke of newspapers as
likely to supersede the pulpit, Mrs. Howe replied to him: "God forbid
that should happen. God forbid we should do without the pulpit. It is the
old fable of the hare and the tortoise. We need the hare for light
running, but the slow, steady tortoise wins the goal at last." Religious
subjects, however, were not so much discussed at the Radical Club as
philosophy and politics,--and in these Mrs. Howe felt herself very much
at home.

On another occasion, when a member of the club said that he was prepared,
like Emerson, to accept the universe, Mrs. Howe interposed with the
remark that it was Margaret Fuller who accepted the universe; she "was
not aware that the universe had been offered to Emerson." She said this
because Margaret Fuller was a woman.

Once, when writing for the newspapers was under discussion, Mrs. Howe
remarked that in that kind of composition one felt prescribed like St.
Simeon Stylites by the limitations of the column.

One of the best of her witty poems describes Boston on a rainy day, and
is called "Expluvior," an innocent parody on Longfellow's "Excelsior,"
which, by the way, ought to have been called Excelsius.

"The butcher came a walking flood,
Drenching the kitchen where he stood.
'Deucalion, is your name?' I pray.
'Moses,' he choked and slid away.

is one of the most characteristic verses; but in the last stanza she
wishes to construct a dam at the foot of Beacon Hill and cause a flood
that would sweep the rebel sympathizers out of Boston.

The office of the Blind Asylum was formerly near the middle of Bromfield
Street on the southern side. This is now historic ground. Between 1850
and 1870 some of the most important national councils were held there in
Dr. Howe's private office. It was the first place that Sumner went to in
the morning and the last place that Governor Andrew stopped before
returning to his home at night. There Dr. Howe and George L. Stearns
consulted with John Brown concerning measures for the defence of Kansas;
and there Howe, Stearns, and Bird concerted plans for the election of
Andrew in 1860, and for the re-election of Sumner in 1862. It was a
quiet, retired spot in the midst of a hustling city, where a celebrated
man could go without attracting public attention.

Chevalier Howe outlived Sumner just one year, and Wilson followed him not
long after.


Sebago is one of the most beautiful of the New England lakes, and has
been celebrated in Longfellow's verse for its curiously winding river
between the upper and the lower portion, as well as for the Indian
traditions connected with it. John A. Andrew's grandfather, like
Hawthorne's father, lived in Salem and both families emigrated to Sebago,
the former locating himself in the small town of Windham. At the time
when Hawthorne was sailing his little boat on the lake, at the age of
fourteen, John Andrew was in his nurse's arms,--born May 31, 1818. Like
Hawthorne and Longfellow he went to Bowdoin College, but did not
distinguish himself there as a scholar,--had no honors at commencement.
We are still in ignorance concerning his college life, what his interests
were, and how he spent his time; but Andrew never cared much for anything
which had not an immediate and practical value. Greek and Latin, merely
for their own sake as ancient languages, did not appeal to him; nor did
the desiccated history and cramping philosophy of those days attract him
more strongly. Yet he ultimately developed one of the finest of American

[Illustration: JOHN A. ANDREW]

He was admitted to the Suffolk bar at the age of twenty-two. He had
already formed decided opinions on the slavery question. The practitioner
with whom he studied was precisely the opposite of Andrew,--a brilliant
scholar, but formal and unsympathetic. Although a young man of fine
promise he was soon excelled by his less learned but more energetic
pupil. At the age of twenty-six we find Andrew presiding at a convention
of Free-soilers, the same which nominated Dr. S. G. Howe for Congress.
Why he did not appear in politics between 1844 and 1859 is something of a
mystery, which may be explained either by his devotion to his profession
or his unwillingness to make politics a profession. He was in constant
communication with Charles Francis Adams, Frank W. Bird, and other
leading independents, and played a part in the election of Sumner as well
as at various nominating conventions; but he apparently neither sought
office nor was sought for it. It may have been a modest conscientiousness
of his own value, which prevented the acceptance of public honors until
he was prepared to claim the best; but the fact is difficult to account
for on any supposition.

Neither was his success at the bar remarkable. He never earned a large
income, and died comparatively poor. There were few who cared to meet him
in debate, yet his legal scholarship was not exceptional, and his
political opinions may have proved an impediment to him in a city which
was still devoted to Webster and Winthrop. Moreover, his kindness of
heart prompted him to undertake a large number of cases for which he
received little or no remuneration. As late as 1856 he was known as the
poor man's lawyer rather than as a distinguished pleader. One cannot help
reflecting what might have been John A. Andrew's fortune if he had been
born in Ohio or Illinois. In the latter State he would have proved a most
important political factor; for he was fully as able a speaker as
Douglas, and he combined with this a large proportion of those estimable
qualities which we all admire in Abraham Lincoln. He had not the wit of
Lincoln, nor his immense fund of anecdote, which helped so much to make
him popular, but the cordial manners and manly frankness of Andrew were
very captivating. He would have told Douglas to his face that he was a
demagogue, as Mirabeau did to Robespierre, and would have carried the
audience with him. It certainly seems as if he would have risen to
distinction there more rapidly than in old-fashioned, conventional

Governor Andrew was an inch shorter than the average height of man, and
much resembled Professor Child in personal appearance. He was a larger
man than Professor Child, and his hair was darker, but he had the same
round, good-humored face, with keen penetrating eyes beneath a brow as
finely sculptured as that of a Greek statue, and closely curling hair
above it. He was broad-shouldered, remarkably so, and had a strong figure
but not a strong constitution. His hands were soft and as white as a
woman's; and though his step was quick and elastic he disliked to walk
long distances, and was averse to physical exercise generally.

He also resembled Professor Child in character,--frank without bluntness;
sincere both formally and intellectually,--full to the brim of moral
courage. He was not only kind-hearted, but very tender-hearted, so that
his lips would quiver on occasions and his eyes fill with tears,--what
doctors improperly call a lachrymose nature; but in regard to a question
of principle or public necessity he was as firm as Plymouth Rock. Neither
did he deceive himself, as kindly persons are too apt to do, in regard to
the true conditions of the case in hand. He would interrogate an
applicant for assistance in as judicious a manner as he would a witness
in a court room. He never degenerated into the professed philanthropist,
who makes a disagreeable and pernicious habit of one of the noblest
attributes of man. "A mechanical virtue," he would say, "is no virtue at

The impressions of youth are much stronger and more enduring than those
of middle life, and I still remember Andrew as he appeared presiding at
the meeting for the benefit of John Brown's wife and daughters in
November, 1859. This was his first notable appearance before the public,
and nothing could have been more daring or more likely to make him
unpopular; and yet within twelve months he was elected Governor. His
attitude and his whole appearance was resolute and intrepid. He had set
his foot down, and no power on earth could induce him to withdraw it. A
clergyman who had been invited to speak at the meeting had at first
accepted, but being informed by some of his parishioners that the thing
would not do, declined with the excuse that he had supposed there would
be two sides to the question. "As if," said Andrew, "there could be two
sides to the question whether John Brown's wife and daughters should be
permitted to starve." Thomas Russell, Judge of the Superior Court, sat
close under the platform, clapping his hands like pistol shots.

John A. Andrew's testimony before the Harper's Ferry investigating
committee has a historical value which Hay and Nicolay, Wilson, and
Von Holst would have done well to have taken into consideration; but the
definitive history of the war period is yet to be written. There was no
reason why Andrew should have been summoned. He had never met John Brown
but once--at a lady's house in Boston--and had given him twenty-five
dollars without knowing what was to be done with it. Jefferson Davis and
the other Southern members of the committee evidently sent for him to
make capital against the Republican party, but the result was different
from what they anticipated. Andrew told them squarely that the Harper's
Ferry invasion was the inevitable consequence of their attempt to force
slavery on Kansas against the will of its inhabitants, and that the
Pottawatomie massacre, whether John Brown was connected with it or not,
was not so bad in its moral effect as the assault on Sumner. It was what
they might expect from attempting to tyrannize over frontier farmers. It
is not to be supposed that such men will be governed by the nice sense of
justice of an eastern law court.

His testimony in regard to the personal magnetism of John Brown is of
great value; but he also admitted that there was something about the old
man which he could not quite understand,--a mental peculiarity which may
have resulted from his hard, barren life, or the fixedness of his

Andrew had already been elected to the Legislature, and had taken his
seat there in January, 1860. Almost in an instant he became the leader of
his party in the House. Always ready to seize the right moment, he united
the two essential qualities of a debater, a good set speech and a
pertinent reply. Perfectly fearless and independent, he was exactly the
man to guide his party through a critical period. There were few in the
house who cared to interfere with him.

Andrew was chairman of the Massachusetts delegation at the Chicago
Convention in May, and although he voted for Seward he was directly
instrumental in the nomination of Lincoln. It is said to have been at his
suggestion that the Massachusetts delegation called together the
delegations of those States that defeated Fremont in 1856, and inquired
of them which of the candidates would be most certain to carry their
constituencies; and with one accord they all answered Lincoln. Thus
Lincoln's nomination was practically assured before the voting began.

It has been repeatedly asserted that the nomination of Andrew for
Governor was the result of a general popular movement; but this was
simply impossible. He was chiefly known to the voters of the State at
that time as the presiding officer of a John Brown meeting, and that was
quite as likely to retard as to advance his interests. He had, however,
become a popular leader in the Legislature, and the fact that Governor
Banks was opposed to him and cast his influence in favor of a Pittsfield
candidate, left a sort of political vacuum in the more populous portion
of the State, which Frank W. Bird and Henry L. Pierce took advantage of
to bring his name forward. Sumner and Wilson threw their weight into the
scales, and Andrew was easily nominated; but he owed this to Frank W.
Bird more than to any other supporter.

In the New York _Herald_ of December 20, 1860, there was the
following item: "Governor-elect Andrew, of Massachusetts, and George L.
Stearns have gone to Washington together, and it is said that the object
of their visit is to brace up weak-kneed Republicans." This was one
object of their journey, but they also went to survey the ground and see
what was the true state of affairs at the Capital. Stearns wrote from
Washington to the Bird Club: "The watchword here is 'Keep quiet,'" a
sentence full of significance for the interpretation of the policy
pursued by the Republican leaders that winter. Andrew returned with the
conviction that war was imminent and could not be prevented. His
celebrated order in regard to the equipment of the State militia followed
immediately, and after the bombardment of Fort Sumter this was looked
upon as a true prophecy. He foresaw the difficulty at Baltimore, and had
already chartered steamships to convey regiments to Washington, in case
there should be a general uprising in Maryland.

Both Sumner and Wilson opposed the appointment of General Butler to the
command of the Massachusetts Volunteers, and preferred Caleb Gushing, who
afterwards proved to be a more satisfactory member of the Republican
party than Butler; but, on the whole, Andrew would seem to have acted
judiciously. They were both bold, ingenious and quick-witted men, but it
is doubtful if Gushing possessed the dash and intrepidity which Butler
showed in dealing with the situation at Baltimore. That portion of his
military career was certainly a good success, and how far he should be
held responsible for the corrupt proceedings of his brother at New
Orleans I do not undertake to decide.

It is likely that Governor Andrew regretted his choice three weeks later,
when General Butler offered his services to the Governor of Maryland to
suppress a slave insurrection which never took place, and of which there
was no danger then or afterwards. A sharp correspondence followed between
the Governor and the General, in which the latter nearly reached the
point of insubordination. For excellent reasons this was not made public
at the time, and is little known at the present day; but General Butler
owed his prominence in the war wholly to Governor Andrew's appointment.

Another little-known incident was Andrew's action in regard to the
meeting in memory of John Brown, which was held on December 2, 1861, by
Wendell Phillips, F. B. Sanborn and others, who were mobbed exactly as
Garrison was mobbed thirty years earlier. The Mayor would do nothing to
protect them, and when Wendell Phillips went to seek assistance from
Andrew the latter declined to interfere. It would be a serious matter to
interfere with the Mayor, and he did not feel that the occasion demanded
it. Moreover he considered the celebration at that time to be prejudicial
to the harmony of the Union cause. Phillips was already very much
irritated and left the Governor's office in no friendly mood. Andrew
might have said to him: "You have been mobbed; what more do you want?
There is no more desirable honor than to be mobbed in a good cause."

Governor Andrew's appointments continued to be so favorable to the
Democrats that Martin F. Conway, the member of Congress from Kansas,
said: "The Governor has come into power with the help of his friends, and
he intends to retain it by conciliating his opponents." It certainly
looked like this; but no one who knew Andrew intimately would believe
that he acted from interested motives. Moreover it was wholly unnecessary
to conciliate them. It is customary in Massachusetts to give the Governor
three annual terms, and no more; but Andrew was re-elected four times,
and it seemed as if he might have had as many terms as Caius Marius had
consulships if he had only desired it.

His object evidently was to unite all classes and parties in a vigorous
support of the Union cause, and he could only do this by taking a number
of colonels and other commissioned officers from the Democratic ranks.
For company officers there was no better recommendation to him than for a
young man to be suspended, or expelled, from Harvard University. "Those
turbulent fellows," he said, "always make good fighters, and," he added
in a more serious tone, "some of them will not be greatly missed if they
do not return." The young aristocrat who was expelled for threatening to
tweak his professor's nose obtained a commission at once.

Another case of this sort was so pathetic that it deserves to be
commemorated. Sumner Paine (named after Charles Sumner), the finest
scholar in his class at Harvard, was suspended in June, 1863, for some
trifling folly and went directly to the Governor for a commission as
Lieutenant. Having an idea that the colored regiments were a particular
hobby with the Governor, he asked for a place in one of them; but Andrew
replied that the list was full; he could, however, give him a Lieutenancy
in the Twentieth Massachusetts, which was then in pursuit of General Lee.
Sumner Paine accepted this, and ten days later he was shot dead on the
field of Gettysburg. Governor Andrew felt very badly; for Paine was not
only a fine scholar but very handsome, and, what is rare among hard
students, full of energy and good spirits.

Governor Andrew tried a number of conclusions, as Shakespeare would call
them, with the National Government during the war, but the most serious
difficulty of this kind resulted from Secretary Stanton's arbitrary
reduction of the pay of colored soldiers from thirteen to eight dollars a
month. This, of course, was a breach of contract, and Governor Andrew
felt a personal responsibility in regard to it, so far as the
Massachusetts regiments were concerned.

He first protested against it to the Secretary of War; but, strange to
say, Stanton obtained a legal opinion in justification of his order from
William Whiting, the solicitor of the War Department. Governor Andrew
then appealed to President Lincoln, who referred the case to Attorney-
General Bates, and Bates, after examining the question, reported
adversely to Solicitor Whiting and notified President Lincoln that the
Government would be liable to an action for damages. The President
accordingly referred this report to Stanton, who paid no attention
whatever to it.

Meanwhile the Massachusetts Legislature had passed an act to make good
the deficiency of five dollars a month to the Massachusetts colored
regiments, but the private soldiers, with a magnanimity that should never
be forgotten, refused to accept from the State what they considered due
them from the National Government. At last Governor Andrew applied to
Congress for redress, declaring that if he did not live to see justice
done to his soldiers in this world he would carry his appeal "before the
Tribunal of Infinite Justice."

Thaddeus Stevens introduced a bill for the purpose June 4,1864, and after
waiting a whole year the colored soldiers received their dues. Andrew
declared in his message to Congress that this affair was a disgrace to
the National Government; and I fear we shall have to agree with him.
[Footnote: At this time there were not less than five thousand officers
drawing pay in the Union armies above the requisite proportion of one
officer to twenty-two privates.]

Sixty years ago Macaulay noticed the injurious effects on oratory of
newspaper publication. Parliamentary speeches were written to be read
rather than to be listened to. It was a peculiarity of Andrew, however,
that he wrote his letters and even his messages to the Legislature as if
he were making a speech. In conversation he was plain, sensible and

He made no pretensions to oratory in his public addresses, but his
delivery was easy, clear, and emphatic. At times he spoke rather rapidly,
but not so much so as to create a confused impression. I never knew him
to make an _argumentum ad hominem_, nor to indulge in those
rhetorical tricks which even Webster and Everett were not wholly free
from. He convinced his hearers as much by the fairness of his manner as
by anything that he said.

The finest passage in his speeches, as we read them now, is his tribute
to Lincoln's character in his address to the Legislature, following upon
Lincoln's assassination. After describing him as the man who had added
"martyrdom itself to his other and scarcely less emphatic claims to human
veneration, gratitude and love," he continued thus: "I desire on this
grave occasion to record my sincere testimony to the unaffected
simplicity of his manly purpose, to the constancy with which he devoted
himself to his duty, to the grand fidelity with which he subordinated
himself to his country, to the clearness, robustness, and sagacity of his
understanding, to his sincere love of truth, his undeviating progress in
its faithful pursuit, and to the confidence which he could not fail to
inspire in the singular integrity of his virtues and the conspicuously
judicial quality of his intellect."

Could any closer and more comprehensive description be given of Andrew's
own character; and is there another statement so appreciative in the
various biographies of Lincoln?

The instances of his kindness and helpfulness were multitudinous, but
have now mostly lapsed into oblivion. During his five years in office it
seemed as if every distressed man, woman, and child came to the Governor
for assistance. William G. Russell, who declined the position of Chief
Justice, once said of him: "There was no better recommendation to
Andrew's favor than for a man to have been in the State's prison, if it
could only be shown that he had been there longer than he deserved."

Andrew considered the saving of a human soul more important than rescuing
a human life. That he was often foiled, deceived, and disappointed in
these reformatory attempts is perfectly true; but was it not better so
than never to have made them? For a long time he had charge of an
intemperate nephew, who even sold his overcoat to purchase drink; but the
Governor never deserted the fellow and cared for him as well as he could.

This is the more significant on account of Andrew's strong argument
against prohibitory legislation, which was the last important act of his

In February, 1864, there was a military ball at Concord for the benefit
of the Thirty-second Massachusetts Regiment. Governor Andrew was present,
and seeing the son of an old friend sitting in a corner and looking much
neglected while his brother was dancing and having a fine time, the
Governor went to him, took him by the arm and marched several times
around the hall with him. He then went to Mrs. Hawthorne, inquired what
her husband was writing, and explained the battle of Gettysburg to her,
drawing a diagram of it on a letter which he took from his coat pocket.
Years afterwards Mrs. Hawthorne spoke of this as one of the pleasantest
interviews of her life.

He would come in late to dinner at the Bird Club, looking so full of
force that he seemed as much like a steam-engine as a man. They usually
applauded him, but he paid no attention to it. "Waiter, bring me some
minced fish with carrots and beets," he would say. His fish-dinner became
proverbial, but he complained that they could not serve it at fine hotels
in the way our grandmothers made it. He said it did not taste the same.

His private secretary states that Governor Andrew's favorite _sans
souci_ was to take a drive into the country with some friend, and
after he had passed the thickly settled suburbs to talk, laugh and jest
as young men do on a yachting excursion,--but his talk was always
refined. There was no recreation that Professor Francis J. Child liked
better than this.

Andrew's valedictory address on January 5, 1865, which was chiefly
concerned with the reconstruction of the Southern States, was little
understood at the time even by his friends; and in truth he did not make
out his scheme as clearly as he might have done. He considered negro
suffrage the first essential of reconstruction, but he did not believe in
enfranchising the colored people and disfranchising the whites. He
foresaw that this could only end in disaster; and he advised that the
rebellious States should remain under military government until the white
people of the South should rescind their acts of secession and adopt
negro suffrage of their own accord. There would have been certain
advantages in this over the plan that was afterwards adopted--that is,
Sumner's plan--but it included the danger that the Southern States might
have adopted universal suffrage and negro citizenship for the sake of
Congressional representation, and afterwards have converted it into a
dead letter, as it is at present. Andrew considered Lincoln's attempts at
reconstruction as premature, and therefore injudicious.

For nearly twenty-five years John A. Andrew was a parishioner of Rev.
James Freeman Clarke, who preached in Indiana Place Chapel. In 1848 Rev.
Mr. Clarke desired to exchange with Theodore Parker, but older members of
his parish strenuously opposed it. Andrew, then only twenty-seven years
old, came forward in support of his pastor, and argued the case
vigorously, not because he agreed with Parker's theological opinions, but
because he considered the opposition illiberal. After this both Andrew
and Clarke would seem to have become gradually more conservative, for
when the latter delivered a sermon or lecture in 1866 in opposition to
Emerson's philosophy, the ex-Governor printed a public letter requesting
him to repeat it. It is easy to trace the influence of James Freeman
Clarke in Governor Andrew's religious opinions and Andrew's influence on
Rev. Mr. Clarke's politics. Each was a firm believer in the other.

The movement to supersede Sumner with Andrew as United States Senator, in
1869, originated in what is called the Back Bay district. It was not
because they loved Andrew there, but because they hated Sumner, who
represented to their minds the loss of political power which they had
enjoyed from the foundation of the Republic until his election in 1850,
and have never recovered it since. Andrew's political record and his
democratic manners could hardly have been to their liking.

The Boston aristocracy counted for success on the support of the Grand
Army veterans, who were full of enthusiasm for Andrew; but it is not
probable that the ex-Governor would have been willing to lead a movement
which his best friends disapproved of, and which originated with the same
class of men who tried so hard to defeat him in 1862. Moreover, they
would have found a very sturdy opponent in Senator Wilson. It was Wilson
who had made Sumner a Senator, and for fifteen years they had fought side
by side without the shadow of a misunderstanding between them. Under such
conditions men cannot help feeling a strong affection for one another.
Besides this, Wilson would have been influenced by interested motives.
Sumner cared nothing for the minor Government offices--the classified
service--except so far as to assist occasionally some unfortunate person
who had been crowded out of the regular lines; and this afforded Wilson a
fine opportunity of extending his influence. If Andrew were chosen
Senator in the way that was anticipated Wilson knew well enough that this
patronage would have to be divided between them.

Andrew could not have replaced Sumner in the Senate. He lacked the
physical strength as well as the experience, and that extensive range of
legal and historical knowledge which so often disconcerted Sumner's
opponents. He had a genius for the executive, and the right position for
him would have been in President Grant's cabinet. That he would have been
offered such a place can hardly be doubted.

But Governor Andrew's span of life was over. He might have lived longer
if he had taken more physical exercise; but the great Civil War proved
more fatal to the statesmen who were engaged in it than to the generals
in the field. None of the great leaders of the Republican party lasted
very long after this.

Andrew's friends always felt that the man was greater than his position,
and that he really missed the opportunity to develop his ability to its
full extent. His position was not so difficult as that of Governor
Morgan, of New York, or Governor Morton, of Indiana; for he was supported
by one of the wealthiest and most patriotic of the States. It was his
clear insight into the political problems of his time and the
fearlessness with which he attacked them that gave him such influence
among his contemporaries, and made him felt as a moral force to the
utmost limits of the Union. No public man has ever left a more stainless
reputation, and we only regret that he was not as considerate of himself
as he was of others.


The first colored regiment in the Civil War was organized by General
Hunter at Beaufort, S. C., in May, 1862, without permission from the
Government; and some said, perhaps unjustly, that he was removed from his
command on that account. It was reorganized by General Saxton the
following August, and accepted by the Secretary of War a short time
afterwards. Rev. T. W. Higginson, who had led the attack on Boston Court
House in the attempt to rescue Anthony Burns, was commissioned as its

In August also George L. Stearns, being aware that Senator Sumner was
preparing a speech to be delivered at the Republican State convention,
went to his house on Hancock Street and urged that he should advocate in
it the general enlistment of colored troops; but Sumner said decisively,
"No, I do not consider it advisable to agitate that question until the
Proclamation of Emancipation has become a fact. Then we will take another
step in advance." At a town meeting held in Medford, in December, Mr.
Stearns made a speech on the same subject, and was hissed for his pains
by the same men who were afterwards saved from the conscription of 1863
by the negroes whom he recruited.


Lewis Hayden, the colored janitor of the State House, always claimed the
credit of having suggested to Governor Andrew to organize a colored
regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers. William S. Robinson, who was then
Clerk of the State Senate, supported Hayden in this; but he also remarked
that Representative Durfee, of New Bedford, proposed a bill in May, 1861,
for the organization of a colored regiment, and that it was only defeated
by six votes.

As soon as the Proclamation of Emancipation had been issued the Governor
went to Washington for a personal interview with the Secretary of War,
and returned with the desired permission. Mr. Stearns went with him and
obtained a commission for James Montgomery, who had defended the Kansas
border during Buchanan's administration, to be Colonel of another colored
regiment in South Carolina. Colonel Montgomery arrived at Beaufort about
the first of February.

Governor Andrew formed the skeleton of a regiment with Robert G. Shaw as
Colonel, but was able to obtain few recruits. There were plenty of sturdy
negroes about Boston, but they were earning higher wages than ever
before, and were equally afraid of what might happen to them if they were
captured by the Confederate forces. Colonel Hallowell says: "The Governor
counselled with certain leading colored men of Boston. He put the
question, Will your people enlist in my regiments? 'They will not,' was
the reply of all but Hayden. 'We have no objection to white officers, but
our self-respect demands that competent colored men shall be at least
eligible to promotion.'" By the last of February less than two companies
had been recruited, and the prospects of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts
did not look hopeful.

When Governor Andrew was in doubt he usually sent for Frank W. Bird and
George L. Stearns, but this time Mr. Stearns was before him. To the
Governor's question, "What is to done?" he replied, "If you will obtain
funds from the Legislature for their transportation, I will recruit you a
regiment among the black men of Ohio and Canada West. There are a great
many runaways in Canada, and those are the ones who will go back and
fight." "Very good," said the Governor; "go as soon as you can, and our
friend Bird will take care of the appropriation bill." A handsome
recruiting fund for incidental expenses had already been raised, to which
Mr. Stearns was, as usual, one of the largest subscribers.

He arrived at Buffalo, New York, the next day at noon, and went to a
colored barber to have his hair cut. He disclosed the object of his
mission, and the barber promised to bring some of his friends together to
discuss the matter that evening. The following evening Mr. Steams called
a meeting of the colored residents of Buffalo, and made an address to
them, urging the importance of the occasion, and the advantage it would
be to their brethren in slavery and to the future of the negro race, if
they were to become well-drilled and practiced soldiers. "When you have
rifles in your hands," he said, "your freedom will be secure." To the
objection that only white officers were being commissioned for the
colored regiments he replied: "See how public opinion changes; how
rapidly we move forward! Only three months ago I was hissed in a town
meeting for proposing the enlistment of colored troops; and now here we
are! I have no doubt that before six months a number of colored officers
will be commissioned." His speech was received with applause; but when he
asked, "Now who will volunteer?" there was a prolonged silence. At length
a sturdy-looking fellow arose and said: "I would enlist if I felt sure
that my wife and children would not suffer for it." "I will look after
your family," said Mr. Stearns, "and see that they want for nothing; but
it is a favor I cannot promise again." After this ten or twelve more
enrolled themselves, and having provided for their maintenance until they
could be transported to the camp at Readville, he went over to Niagara,
on the Canada side, to see what might be effected in that vicinity.

In less than a week he was again in Buffalo arranging a recruiting
bureau, with agencies in Canada and the Western States as far as St.
Louis--where there were a large number of refugees who had lately been
liberated by Grant's campaign at Vicksburg. Mr. Lucian B. Eaton, an old
lawyer and prominent politician of the city, accepted the agency there as
a work of patriotic devotion. Among Mr. Stearns's most successful agents
were the Langston brothers, colored scions of a noble Virginia family,--
both excellent men and influential among their people. All his agents
were required to write a letter to him every evening, giving an account
of their day's work, and every week to send him an account of their
expenses. Thus Mr. Stearns sat at his desk and directed their movements
by telegraph as easily as pieces on a chess-board. The appropriation for
transportation had already passed the Massachusetts Legislature, but
where this did not suffice to meet an emergency he drew freely on his own

By the last of April recruits were coming in at the rate of thirty or
forty a day, and Mr. Stearns telegraphed to the Governor: "I can fill up
another regiment for you in less than six weeks,"--a hint which resulted
in the Massachusetts Fifty-fifth, with Norwood P. Hallowell, a gallant
officer who had been wounded at Antietam, for its commander.

The Governor, however, appears to have suddenly changed his mind, for on
May 7th Mr. Stearns wrote to his wife:

"Yesterday at noon I learned from Governor Andrew by telegram that he did
not intend to raise another regiment. I was thunderstruck. My work for
three weeks would nearly, or quite, fall to the ground. I telegraphed in
reply: 'You told me to take all the men I could get without regard to
regiments. Have two hundred men on the way; what shall I do with them?'
The reply came simultaneously with your letter: 'Considering your
telegraph and Wild's advice, another regiment may proceed, expecting it
full in four weeks. Present want of troops will probably prevent my being
opposed.' I replied: 'I thank God for your telegram received this
morning. You shall have the men in four weeks.' Now all is right."

The Surgeon-General had detailed one Dr. Browne for duty at Buffalo to
examine Mr. Stearns's recruits, and if found fit for service by him there
was presumably no need of a second examination. This, however, did not
suit the medical examiner at Readville, who either from ill will or from
some unknown motive, insisted on rejecting every sixth man sent there
from the West. Thus there was entailed on Mr. Stearns an immense expense
which he had no funds to meet, and he was obliged to make a private loan
of ten thousand dollars without knowing in the least how or where he was
to be reimbursed.

Finally, on May 8, Mr. Stearns made a remonstrance against this abuse to
Governor Andrew in a letter in which he also gave this account of

"I have worked every day, Sunday included, for more than two months
and from fourteen to sixteen hours a day; I have filled the West with
my agents; I have compelled the railroads to accept lower terms of
transportation than the Government rates; I have filled a letter-book
of five hundred pages, most of it closely written."

This letter is now in the archives of the State
House at Boston, and on the back of it Governor
Andrew has written:

"This letter is respy. referred to Surgeon-General Dole with the
request that he would confer with Surgeon Stone and Lieutenant-Colonel
Hallowell. It is surprising, and not fair nor fit, that a man trying
as Mr. Stearns is, to serve the country at a risk, should suffer thus
by such disagreement of opinion.


Shortly after this Mr. Stearns returned to Boston for a brief visit, and
was met in the street by a philanthropic lady, Mrs. E. D. Cheney, who
asked: "Where have you been all this time, Mr. Stearns? I supposed you
were going to help us organize the colored regiment? You will be glad to
know that it is doing well. We have nearly a thousand men." Mr. Stearns
made no reply, but bowed and passed on. This is the more surprising, as
Mrs. Cheney was president of a society of ladies who had presented the
Fifty-fourth Regiment with a flag; but the fault would seem to have been
more that of others than her own. At the celebration which took place on
the departure of the regiment for South Carolina, however, Wendell
Phillips said: "We owe it chiefly to a private citizen, to George L.
Stearns, of Medford, that these heroic men are mustered into the
service,"--a statement which astonished a good many. [Footnote: The
statement made by Governor Andrew's private secretary concerning the
colored regiments in his memoir of the Governor would seem to have been
intentionally misleading.]

The Governors of the Western States had never considered their colored
population as of any importance, but now, when it was being drained off
to fill up the quota of Massachusetts troops they began to think
differently. The Governor of Ohio advised Governor Andrew that no more
recruiting could be permitted in his State unless the recruits were
assigned to the Ohio quota. Andrew replied that the Governor of Ohio was
at liberty to recruit colored regiments of his own; but the Massachusetts
Fifty-fifth, having now a complement, it was decided not to continue the
business any further, and Mr. Stearns's labors at Buffalo were thus
brought to an end about the middle of June. He had recruited fully one-
half of the Fifty-fourth, and nearly the whole of the Fifty-fifth

He now conceived the idea of making his recruiting bureau serviceable by
placing it in the hands of the Government. He therefore went to
Washington and meeting his friend, Mr. Fred Law Olmstead, at Willard's
Hotel, the latter offered to go with him to the War Department and
introduce him to Secretary Stanton. They found Stanton fully alive to the
occasion, and in reply to Mr. Stearns's offer he said:

"I have heard of your recruiting bureau, and I think you would be the
best man to run the machine you have constructed. I will make you an
Assistant Adjutant-General with the rank of Major, and I will give you
authority to recruit colored regiments all over the country."

Stearns thanked him, and replied that there was nothing which he had so
much at heart as enlisting the black men on a large scale; for no people
could be said to be secure in their freedom unless they were also
soldiers; but his wife was unwell, and had suffered much from his absence
already, and he did not feel that he ought to accept the offer without
her consent. In answer to the question how funds for recruiting were to
be obtained without any appropriation by Congress, Mr. Stanton said they
could be supplied from the Secret Service fund.

When Mr. Stearns and Mr. Olmstead were alone on the street again, the
latter said: "Mr. Stearns, go to your room and sleep if you can."

Having returned to Boston, to arrange his affairs for a prolonged
absence, and having obtained his wife's consent, Mr. Stearns ordered his
recruiting bureau to report at Philadelphia, where he soon after followed

The battle of Gettysburg had stirred Philadelphia to its foundations, and
its citizens were prepared to welcome anything that promised a vigorous
prosecution of the war. Major Stearns was at once enrolled among the
members of the Union League Club, the parent of all the union leagues in
the country, and was invited to the meetings of various other clubs and
fashionable entertainments. A recruiting committee was formed from among
the most prominent men in the city. Camp William Penn, while the colored
regiment was being drilled, became a fashionable resort, and fine
equipages filled the road thither every after-noon. By the middle of July
the first regiment was nearly full.

Fine weather does not often last more than a few weeks at a time, and in
the midst of these festivities suddenly came Secretary Stanton's order
reducing the pay of colored soldiers from thirteen to eight dollars a
month. This was a breach of contract and the men had a right to their
discharge if they wished it; but that, of course, was not permitted them.
Such an action could only be excused on the ground of extreme necessity.
The Massachusetts Legislature promptly voted to pay the deficiency to the
Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth regiments; but the one at Philadelphia was
in organization, and Mr. Stearns found himself in the position of a man
who has made promises which he is unable to fulfil.

Hon. William D. Kelley and two other gentlemen of the committee went with
Major Stearns to Washington to see Stanton, and endeavored to persuade
him to revoke the order. Kelley was one of the most persistent debaters
who ever sat in Congress, and he argued the question with the Secretary
of War for more than an hour,--to the great disgust of the latter,--but
Stanton was as firm as Napoleon ever was. Major Stearns never had another
pleasant interview with him.

The Secretary's argument was that some white regiments had complained of
being placed on an equality with negroes, and that it interfered with
recruiting white soldiers. There was doubtless some reason in this; but
the same result might have been obtained by a smaller reduction.

The next morning some one remarked to Major Stearns that it was
exceedingly hot weather, even for Washington, and his reply was: "Yes,
but the fever within is worse than the heat without." He talked of
resigning; but finally said, decisively, "I will go and consult with

He found Mr. Olmstead friendly and sympathetic. He spoke of Secretary
Stanton in no complimentary terms, but he advised Mr. Stearns to continue
with his work, and endure all that he could for the good of the cause,--
not to be worried by evils for which he was in no way responsible. Mr.
Stearns returned to Willard's with a more cheerful countenance.

In the afternoon Judge Kelley came in with the news of the repulse of the
Fifty-fourth Massachusetts regiment at Fort Wagner and the death of
Colonel Shaw.

There was a colored regiment in process of formation at Baltimore, and
another was supposed to be organizing at Fortress Monroe.

Both were nominally under Mr. Stearns's supervision, and he inspected the
former on his return trip to Philadelphia, and sent his son to
investigate and report on the latter. Not the trace of a colored regiment
could be discovered at Fortress Monroe, but there were scores of Union
officers lounging and smoking on the piazza of the Hygeia Hotel. Mr.
Stearns thought that business economy had better begin by reducing the
number of officers rather than the pay of the soldiers. On July 28 Major
Stearns wrote from Baltimore:

"I am still perplexed as to the mode in which I can best carry out the
work intrusted to me. It is so difficult to adjust my mode of rapid
working to the slow routine of the Department that I sometimes almost
despair of the task and want to abandon it."

No private business could succeed if carried on after the manner of the
National Government at that time, and this was not the fault of Lincoln's
administration at all, but of the whole course of Jackson democracy from
1829 to 1861. The clerks in the various departments did not hold their
positions from the heads of those departments, but from outside
politicians who had no connection with the Government business, and as a
consequence they were saucy and insubordinate. They found it to their
interest to delay and obstruct the procedure of business in order to give
the impression that they were overworked, and in that way make their
positions more secure and if possible of greater importance.

Major Stearns had found himself continually embarrassed in his Government
service from lack of sufficient funds, and the continual delay in having
his accounts audited. The auditors of the War Department repeatedly took
exception to expenditures that were absolutely necessary, and he was
obliged to advance large sums from his own capital in order to provide
the current expenses of his agents. In this emergency he returned to
Boston and held a conference with Mr. John M. Forbes and other friends;
and they all agreed that he ought to be better supported in the work of
recruiting than he had been. A subscription was immediately set on foot,
and in a few days a recruiting fund of about thirty thousand dollars was
raised and placed in charge of Mr. R. P. Hallowell.

On September 1, Secretary Stanton transferred Major Stearns to Nashville,
where he could obtain recruits in large numbers, not only from Tennessee
but from the adjoining States. Fugitives flocked to his standard from
Alabama, Mississippi, and Kentucky. For the succeeding five months he
organized colored regiments so rapidly that it was with difficulty the
General commanding at Nashville could supply the necessary quota of
officers for them. His letter-writing alone rarely came to less than
twenty pages a day, and besides this he was obliged to attend personally
to innumerable details which were constantly interfering with more
important affairs. Serious questions concerning the rights and legal
position of the freedmen were continually arising, and these required a
cool head and a clear understanding for their solution.

Edward J. Bartlett, of Concord, who was one of his staff in Nashville,
stated afterwards that he never saw a man who could despatch so much
business in a day as George L. Stearns. He says:

"I shall never forget the fine appearance of the first regiment we
sent off. They were all picked men, and felt a just pride in wearing
the blue. As fast as we obtained enough recruits they were formed
into regiments, officered and sent to the front. When men became
scarce in the city we made trips into the country, often going beyond
the Union picket line, and generally reaping a harvest of slaves.
These expeditions brought an element of danger into our lives, for
our forage parties were fired into by the enemy more than once, but we
always succeeded in bringing back our men with us. The black regiments
did valuable service for the Union, leaving their dead on many a
southern battle-field. Mr. Stearns was a noble man, courteous, with
great executive ability, and grandly fitted for the work he was
engaged in."

At this time Major Stearns's friend, General Wilde, was recruiting a
colored brigade in North Carolina, and General Ullman was organizing
colored regiments in Louisiana.

Major Stearns's labors were brought to a close in February, 1864, by the
eccentric conduct of Secretary Stanton,--the reason for which has never
been explained. He obtained leave of absence to return to Boston at
Christmas time, and after a brief visit to his family went to Washington
and called upon the Secretary of War, who declined to see him three days
in succession. On the evening of the fourth day he met Mr. Stanton at an
evening party and Stanton said to him in his roughest manner: "Major
Stearns, why are you not in Tennessee?" This was a breach of official
etiquette on the part of the Secretary of War and Major Stearns sent in
his resignation at once. His reason for doing so, however, was not so
much on account of this personal slight as from the conclusion that he
had accomplished all that was essential to be done in this line. His
chief assistant at Nashville, Capt. R. D. Muzzey, was an able man and
perfectly competent to run the machine which Mr. Stearns had constructed.

The importance of his work cannot readily be measured. It was no longer
easy to obtain white volunteers. With a population ten millions less than
that of France, the Northern States were maintaining an army much larger
than the one which accompanied Napoleon to Moscow. General Thomas's right
wing, at the battle of Nashville, was formed almost entirely of colored
regiments. They were ordered to make a feint attack on the enemy, so as
to withdraw attention from the flanking movement of his veterans on the
left; but when the charge had once begun their officers were unable to
keep them in check--the feint was changed into a real attack and
contributed largely to the most decisive victory of the whole war.

In his last annual Message President Lincoln congratulated Congress on
the success of the Government's policy in raising negro regiments, and on
the efficiency of the troops organized in this way. It seems very
doubtful if the war could have been brought to a successful termination
without them.

In 1898 the Legislature of Massachusetts, at the instance of the veterans
of the Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth regiments, voted to have a memorial
tablet for the public services of George Luther Stearns set up in the
Doric Hall of Boston State House, and the act was approved by Governor
Walcott, who sent the quill with which he signed it to Major Stearns's


_Delivered in the First Parish Church of Medford on the Sunday
following Major Stearns's death, April 9, 1867._

"We do not know how to prize good men until they depart. High virtue has
such an air of nature and necessity that to thank its possessor would be
to praise the water for flowing or the fire for warming us. But, on the
instant of their death, we wonder at our past insensibility, when we see
how impossible it is to replace them. There will be other good men, but
not these again. And the painful surprise which the last week brought us,
in the tidings of the death of Mr. Stearns, opened all eyes to the just
consideration of the singular merits of the citizen, the neighbor, the
friend, the father, and the husband, whom this assembly mourns. We recall
the all but exclusive devotion of this excellent man during the last
twelve years to public and patriotic interests. Known until that time in
no very wide circle as a man of skill and perseverance in his business;
of pure life; of retiring and affectionate habits; happy in his domestic
relations,--his extreme interest in the national politics, then growing
more anxious year by year, engaged him to scan the fortunes of freedom
with keener attention. He was an early laborer in the resistance to
slavery. This brought him into sympathy with the people of Kansas. As
early as 1855 the Emigrant Aid Society was formed; and in 1856 he
organized the Massachusetts State Kansas Committee, by means of which a
large amount of money was obtained for the 'free-State men,' at times of
the greatest need. He was the more engaged to this cause by making in
1857 the acquaintance of Captain John Brown, who was not only an
extraordinary man, but one who had a rare magnetism for men of character,
and attached some of the best and noblest to him, on very short
acquaintance, by lasting ties. Mr. Stearns made himself at once necessary
to Captain Brown as one who respected his inspirations, and had the
magnanimity to trust him entirely, and to arm his hands with all needed

"For the relief of Kansas, in 1856-57, his own contributions were the
largest and the first. He never asked any one to give so much as he
himself gave, and his interest was so manifestly pure and sincere that he
easily obtained eager offerings in quarters where other petitioners
failed. He did not hesitate to become the banker of his clients, and to
furnish them money and arms in advance of the subscriptions which he
obtained. His first donations were only entering wedges of his later;
and, unlike other benefactors, he did not give money to excuse his entire
preoccupation in his own pursuits, but as an earnest of the dedication of
his heart and hand to the interests of the sufferers,--a pledge kept
until the success he wrought and prayed for was consummated. In 1862, on
the President's first or preliminary Proclamation of Emancipation, he
took the first steps for organizing the Freedman's Bureau,--a department
which has since grown to great proportions. In 1863, he began to recruit
colored soldiers in Buffalo; then at Philadelphia and Nashville. But
these were only parts of his work. He passed his time in incessant
consultations with all men whom he could reach, to suggest and urge the
measures needed for the hour. And there are few men of real or supposed
influence, North or South, with whom he has not at some time
communicated. Every important patriotic measure in this region has had
his sympathy, and of many he has been the prime mover. He gave to each
his strong support, but uniformly shunned to appear in public. For
himself or his friends he asked no reward: for himself, he asked only to
do the hard work. His transparent singleness of purpose, his freedom from
all by-ends, his plain good sense, courage, adherence, and his romantic
generosity disarmed first or last all gainsayers. His examination before
the United States Senate Committee on the Harper's Ferry Invasion, in
January, 1860, as reported in the public documents, is a chapter well
worth reading, as a shining example of the manner in which a truth-
speaker baffles all statecraft, and extorts at last a reluctant homage
from the bitterest adversaries.

"I have heard, what must be true, that he had great executive skill, a
clear method, and a just attention to all the details of the task in
hand. Plainly he was no boaster or pretender, but a man for up-hill work,
a soldier to bide the brunt; a man whom disasters, which dishearten other
men, only stimulated to new courage and endeavor.

"I have heard something of his quick temper: that he was indignant at
this or that man's behavior, but never that his anger outlasted for a
moment the mischief done or threatened to the good cause, or ever stood
in the way of his hearty co-operation with the offenders, when they
returned to the path of public duty. I look upon him as a type of the
American republican. A man of the people, in strictly private life, girt
with family ties; an active and intelligent manufacturer and merchant,
enlightened enough to see a citizen's interest in the public affairs, and
virtuous enough to obey to the uttermost the truth he saw,--he became, in
the most natural manner, an indispensable power in the State. Without
such vital support as he, and such as he, brought to the government,
where would that government be! When one remembers his incessant service;
his journeys and residences in many States; the societies he worked with;
the councils in which he sat; the wide correspondence, presently enlarged
by printed circulars, then by newspapers established wholly or partly at
his own cost; the useful suggestions; the celerity with which his purpose


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