Part 5 out of 7
serious man, devoted to the public service and exceedingly capable.
He almost adored Gladstone and grieved over the growing opposition
in the Cabinet.
The guests at the dinner were all GIadstonians and lamenting these
differences and full of apprehension they might result in a split
in the party. The earl asked me if we ever had such conditions
in the United States. I answered: "Yes." Mr. Blaine, at that
time at the head of President Harrison's Cabinet as secretary
of state, had very serious differences with his chief, and the
people wondered why he remained. Mr. Blaine told me this story
apropos of the situation: The author of a play invited a friend
of his to witness the first production and sent him a complimentary
ticket. During the first act there were signs of disapproval,
which during the second act broke out into a riot. An excited
man sitting alongside the guest of the playwright said: "Stranger,
are you blind or deaf, or do you approve of the play?" The guest
replied: "My friend, my sentiments and opinion in regard to this
play do not differ from yours and the rest, but I am here on a
free ticket. If you will wait a little while till I go out and
buy a ticket, I will come back and help you raise hell."
The most brilliant member of Mr. Gladstone's Cabinet and one of
the most accomplished, versatile, and eloquent men in Great Britain
was Lord Rosebery. I saw much of him when he was foreign minister
and also after he became prime minister. Lord Rosebery was not
only a great debater on political questions, he was also the most
scholarly orator of his country on educational, literary, and
patriotic subjects. He gathered about him always the people
whom a stranger pre-eminently desired to meet.
I recall one of my week-end visits to his home at Mentmore, which
is one of the most delightful of my reminiscences abroad. He had
taken down there the leaders of his party. The dinner lasted, the
guests all being men, except Lady Rosebery, who presided, until
after twelve o'clock. Every one privileged to be there felt that
those four hours had passed more quickly and entertainingly than
any in their experience.
It was a beautiful moonlight night and the very best of English
weather, and we adjourned to the terrace. There were recalled
personal experiences, incidents of travel from men who had been
all over the world and in critical situations in many lands,
diplomatic secrets revealing crises seriously threatening European
wars, and how these had been averted, alliances made and territories
acquired, adventures of thrilling interest and personal episodes
surpassing fiction. The company reluctantly separated when the
rising sun admonished them that the night had passed.
It has been my good fortune to be the guest of eminent men in
many lands and on occasions of memorable interest, but the rarest
privilege for any one was to be the guest of Lord Rosebery, either
at his city house or one of his country residences. The wonderful
charm of the host, his tact with his guests, his talent for drawing
people out and making them appear at their best, linger in their
memories as red-letter days and nights of their lives.
All Americans took great interest in the career of Lord Randolph
Churchill. His wife was one of the most beautiful and popular
women in English society, and an American. I knew her father,
Leonard Jerome, very well. He was a successful banker and a highly
educated and cultured gentleman. His brother, William Jerome,
was for a long time the best story-teller and one of the wittiest
of New Yorkers.
Lord Randolph Churchill advanced very rapidly in British politics
and became not only one of the most brilliant debaters but one
of the leaders of the House of Commons. On one of my visits abroad
I received an invitation from the Churchills to visit them at their
country place. When I arrived I found that they occupied a castle
built in the time of Queen Elizabeth, and in which few modern
alterations had been made. It was historically a very unique and
interesting structure. Additions had been made to it by succeeding
generations, each being another house with its own methods of
ingress and egress. Lord Randolph said: "I welcome you to my
ancestral home, which I have rented for three months."
Though this temporary residence was very ancient, yet its
hospitalities were dispensed by one of the most up-to-date and
progressive couples in the kingdom. In the intimacy of a
house-party, not too large, one could enjoy the versatility,
the charm, the wide information, the keen political acumen of
this accomplished and magnetic British statesman. It was
unfortunate for his country that from overwork he broke down so
early in life.
No one during his period could surpass Baron Alfred Rothschild as
host. His dinners in town, followed by exquisite musicales, were
the social events of every season. He was, however, most attractive
at his superb place in the country. A week-end with him there met
the best traditions of English hospitality. In the party were sure
to be men and women of distinction, and just the ones whom an
American had read about and was anxious to meet.
Baron Rothschild was a famous musician and an ardent lover of
music. He had at his country place a wonderfully trained orchestra
of expert musicians. In the theatre he gave concerts for the
enjoyment of his guests, and led the orchestra himself. Among
the company was sure to be one or more of the most famous artists
from the opera at Covent Garden, and from these experts his own
leadership and the performance of his perfectly trained company
received unstinted praise and applause. Baron Rothschild had the
art so necessary for the enjoyment of his guests of getting
together the right people. He never risked the harmony of his
house by inviting antagonists.
Lord Rothschild, the head of the house, differed entirely from
his amiable and accomplished brother. While he also entertained,
his mind was engrossed in business and affairs. I had a conference
with him at the time of the Spanish-American War, which might have
been of historical importance. He asked me to come and see him
in the Rothschild banking-house, where the traditions of a century
are preserved and unchanged. He said to me: "We have been for
a long time the bankers of Spain. We feel the responsibility for
their securities, which we have placed upon the market. The
United States is so all-powerful in its resources and spirit that
it can crush Spain. This we desire to avert. Spain, though weak
and poor compared to the United States, has nevertheless the
proudest people in the world, and it is a question of Spanish
pride we have to deal with."
In answering him I said: "Lord Rothschild, it seems to me that
if you had any proposition you should take it to Mr. John Hay,
our accomplished minister."
"No," he said; "then it would become a matter of diplomacy and
publicity. Now the Spanish Government is willing to comply with
every demand the United States can make. The government is willing
to grant absolute independence to Cuba, or what it would prefer,
a self-governing colony, with relations like that of Canada to
Great Britain. Spain is willing to give to the United States
Porto Rico and the Philippine Islands, but she must know beforehand
if these terms will be accepted before making the offer because
if an offer so great as this and involving such a loss of territory
and prestige should be rejected by the United States there would
be a revolution in Spain which might overthrow not only the
government but the monarchy. What would be regarded as an insult
would be resented by every Spaniard to the bitter end. That is
why I have asked you to come and wish you to submit this proposition
to your president. Of course, I remain in a position, if there
should be any publicity about it, to deny the whole thing."
The proposition unfortunately came too late, and Mr. McKinley could
not stop the war. It was well known in Washington that he was
exceedingly averse to hostilities and believed the difficulties
could be satisfactorily settled by diplomacy, but the people were
aroused to such an extent that they were determined not only to free
Cuba but to punish those who were oppressing the Cubans.
One incident which received little publicity at the time was in
all probability the match which fired the magazine. One of the
ablest and most level-headed members of the Senate was Senator
Redfield Proctor, of Vermont. The solidity of his character and
acquirements and his known sense and conservatism made him a
power in Congress, and he had the confidence of the people. He
visited Cuba and wrote a report in which he detailed as an
eyewitness the atrocities which the government and the soldiers
were perpetrating. He read this report to Mr. McKinley and
Senator Hanna. They both said: "Senator Proctor, if you read
that to the Senate, our negotiations end and war is inevitable."
The president requested the senator to delay reporting to the
Senate. The excitement and interest in that body were never more
unanimous and intense. I doubt if any senator could have resisted
this rare opportunity not only to be the centre of the stage but
to occupy the whole platform. Senator Proctor made his report
and the country was aflame.
One summer I arrived in London and was suffering from a fearful
attack of muscular rheumatism. I knew perfectly well that I had
brought it on myself by overwork. I had suffered several attacks
before, but this one was so acute that I consulted Sir Henry Thompson,
at that time the acknowledged head of the British medical
profession. He made a thorough examination and with most
satisfactory result as to every organ. "With your perfect
constitution," he said, "this attack is abnormal. Now tell me of
your day and every day at home. Begin with breakfast."
"I breakfast at a quarter of eight," I said.
"Then," continued the doctor, "give me the whoIe day."
"I arrive at my office," I said, "at nine. Being president of
a great railway company, there is a large correspondence to be
disposed of. I see the heads of the different departments and
get in touch with every branch of the business. Then I meet
committees of chambers of commerce or shippers, or of employees
who have a grievance, and all this will occupy me until five
o'clock, when I go home. I take a very short lunch, often at
my desk, to save time. On arriving home I take a nap of ten or
fifteen minutes, and then look over my engagements for the evening.
If it is a speech, which will probably happen four evenings in a
week, I prepare in the next hour and then deliver it at some public
banquet or hall. If I have accepted a formal address or, as we
call them in America, orations, it is ground out on odd evenings,
Sunday afternoon and night."
The doctor turned to me abruptly and said: "You ought to be dead.
Now, you have the most perfect constitution and less impaired than
any I have examined at your time of life. If you will follow the
directions which I give you, you can be perfectly well and sound
at the age of one hundred. If you continue your present life until
seventy, you will have a nervous breakdown, and thereafter become
a nuisance to yourself and everybody else. I advise absolute rest
at a remote place in Switzerland. There you will receive no
newspapers, and you will hear nothing from the outside world.
You will meet there only English who are seeking health, and they
will not speak to you. Devote your day to walking over the
mountains, adding to your tramp as your strength increases, and
lie for hours on the bank of a quiet stream there, and be intensely
interested as you throw pebbles into it to see how wide you can
make the circles from the spot where the pebble strikes the water."
I thought I understood my temperament better than the doctor, and
that any rest for me was not solitude but entire change of
occupation. So I remained in London and lunched and dined out
every day for several weeks, with a week-end over every Sunday.
In other ways, however, I adopted the doctor's directions and not
only returned home cured, but have been free from rheumatism
I was in London at both the queen's fiftieth anniversary of her
reign and her jubilee. The reverence and love the English people
had for Queen Victoria was a wonderful exhibition of her wisdom
as a sovereign and of her charm and character as a woman. The
sixty years of her reign were a wonderful epoch in the growth of
her empire and in its relations to the world.
Once I said to a member of the Cabinet, who, as minister of
foreign affairs had been brought in close contact with the queen:
"I am very much impressed with the regard which the people have
for Queen Victoria. What is her special function in your scheme
"She is invaluable," he answered, "to every prime minister and
the Cabinet. The prime minister, after the close of the debate
in the House of Commons every night, writes the queen a full
report of what has occurred at that session. This has been going
on for more than half a century. The queen reads these accounts
carefully and has a most retentive memory. If these communications
of the prime ministers were ever available to the public, they
would present a remarkable contrast of the minds and the methods
of different prime ministers and especially those two extreme
opposites, Gladstone and Disraeli. The queen did not like Gladstone,
because she said he always preached, but she had an intense
admiration for Disraeli, who threw into his nightly memoranda all
his skill not only as a statesman, but a novelist. The queen also
has been consulted during all these years on every crisis, domestic
or foreign, and every matter of Cabinet importance. The result
is that she is an encycIopaedia. Very often there will be a dispute
with some of the great powers or lesser ones, which is rapidly
growing to serious proportions. We can find no report of its
beginning. The queen, however, will remember just when the
difficulty began, and why it was pushed aside and not settled,
and who were the principal actors in the negotiations. With that
data we often arrive at a satisfactory settlement."
I remember one garden-party at Buckingham Palace. The day was
perfect and the attendance phenomenally large and distinguished.
While there were places on the grounds where a luncheon was served,
the guests neglected these places and gathered about a large tent
where the royalties had their refreshments. It was an intense
curiosity, not so much to see their sovereign eat and drink, as
to improve the opportunity to reverently gaze upon her at close
range. The queen called various people whom she knew from this
circle of onlookers for a familiar talk.
When the luncheon was served the attendant produced an immense
napkin, which she spread over herself, almost from her neck to
the bottom of her dress. A charming English lady, who stood beside
me, said: "I know you are laughing at the economy of our Queen."
"On the contrary," I said, "I am admiring an example of carefulness
and thrift which, if it could be universally known, would be of
as great benefit in the United States as in Great Britain."
"Well," she continued, "I do wish that the dear old lady was not
quite so careful."
At a period when the lives of the continental rulers were in great
peril from revolutionists and assassins, the queen on both her
fiftieth anniversary and her jubilee rode in an open carriage
through many miles of London streets, with millions of spectators
on either side pressing closely upon the procession, and there was
never a thought that she was in the slightest danger. She was
fearless herself, but she had on the triple armor of the overmastering
love and veneration of the whole people. Americans remembered
that in the crisis of our Civil War it was the influence of the
queen, more than any other, which prevented Great Britain
recognizing the Southern Confederacy.
Among the incidents of her jubilee was the greatest naval
demonstration ever known. The fleets of Great Britain were summoned
from all parts of the globe and anchored in a long and imposing
line in the English Channel. Mr. Ismay, at that time the head
of the White Star Line, took the Teutonic, which had just been
built and was not yet in regular commission, as his private yacht.
He had on board a notable company, representing the best, both
of men and women, of English life. He was the most generous of
hosts, and every care taken for the individual comfort of his
guests. In the intimacy for several days of such an excursion
we all became very well acquainted. There were speeches at
the dinners and dances afterwards on the deck for the younger
people. The war-ships were illuminated at night by electric
lights, and the launch of the Teutonic took us down one lane and
up another through the long lines of these formidable defenders
of Great Britain.
One day there was great excitement when a war-ship steamed into
our midst and it was announced that it was the German emperor's.
Even as early as that he excited in the English mind both curiosity
and apprehension. One of the frequent questions put to me, both
then and for years afterwards at English dinners, was: "What do
you think of the German emperor?"
Shortly after his arrival he came on to the Teutonic with the
Prince of Wales, afterwards King Edward VII. The prince knew
many of the company and was most cordial all around. The emperor
was absorbed in an investigation of this new ship and her
possibilities both in the mercantile marine and as a cruiser.
I heard him say to the captain: "How are you armed?" The captain
told him that among his equipment he had a new invention, a
quick-firing gun. The emperor was immediately greatly excited.
He examined the gun and questioned its qualities and possibilities
until he was master of every detail. Then he turned to one of
his officers and gave a quick order that the gun should be
immediately investigated and all that were required should be
provided for Germany.
I heard a picturesque story from a member of the court, of
Queen Victoria's interest in all public affairs. There was then,
as there is generally in European relations, some talk of war.
The queen was staying at her castle at Osborne on the Isle of Wight.
He said she drove alone down to the shore one night and sat there
a long time looking at this great fleet, which was the main
protection of her empire and her people. It would be interesting
if one could know what were her thoughts, her fears, and her hopes.
The queen was constantly assisting the government in the maintenance
of friendly relations with foreign powers by entertaining their
representatives at Windsor Castle. When General Grant, after
he retired from the presidency, made his trip around the world,
the question which disturbed our American minister, when General Grant
arrived in London, was how he could be properly received and
recognized. Of course, under our usage, he had become a private
citizen, and was no more entitled to official recognition than any
other citizen. This was well known in the diplomatic circles.
When the ambassadors and ministers of foreign countries in London
were appealed to, they unanimously said that as they represented
their sovereigns they could not yield precedence to General Grant,
but he must sit at the foot of the table. The Prince of Wales
solved this question with his usual tact and wisdom. Under the
recognized usage at any entertainment, the Prince of Wales can
select some person as his special guest to sit at his right, and,
therefore, precede everybody else. The prince made this suggestion
to our minister and performed this courteous act at all functions
given to General Grant. Queen Victoria supplemented this by
extending the same invitation to General and Mrs. Grant to dine
and spend the night with her at Windsor Castle, which was extended
only to visiting royalty.
I remember that the Army of the Potomac was holding its annual
meeting and commemoration at one of our cities when the cable
announced that General Grant was being entertained by Queen Victoria
at Windsor Castle. The conventions of diplomacy, which requires
all communications to pass through the ambassador of one's country
to the foreign minister of another country before it can reach the
sovereign were not known to these old soldiers, so they cabled
a warm message to General Grant, care of Queen Victoria,
Windsor Castle, England.
One of the most defightful bits of humor in my recollections of
journalistic enterprise was an editorial by a Mr. Alden, one
of the editors of the New York Times. Mr. Alden described with
great particularity, as if giving the details of the occurrence,
that the messenger-boy arrived at Windsor Castle during the night
and rang the front door-belI; that Her Majesty called out of the
window in quite American style, "Who is there?" and the messenger-boy
shouted, "Cable for General Grant. Is he staying at this house?"
I can only give a suggestion of Alden's fun, which shook the
One of the court officers said to me during the jubilee: "Royalties
are here from every country, and among those who have come over
is Liliuokalani, Queen of the Hawaiian Islands. She is as insistent
of her royal rights as the Emperor of Germany. We have consented
that she should be a guest at a dinner of our queen and spend
the night at Windsor Castle. We have settled her place among
the royalties in the procession through London and offered her
the hussars as her guard of honor. She insists, however, that
she shall have the same as the other kings, a company of the
guards. Having recognized her, we are obliged to yield." The
same officer told me that at the dinner the dusky queen said to
Queen Victoria: "Your Majesty, I am a blood relative of yours."
"How so?" was the queen's astonished answer.
"Why," said Liliuokalani, "my grandfather ate your Captain Cook."
One of the most interesting of the many distinguished men who
were either guests on the Teutonic or visited us was Admiral Lord
Charles Beresford. He was a typical sailor of the highest class
and very versatile. He made a good speech, either social or
political, and was a delightful companion on all occasions. He
had remarkable adventures all over the world, and was a word
painter of artistic power. He knew America well and was very
sympathetic with our ideals. I met him many times in many relations
and always with increasing regard and esteem.
I was entertained by Lord Beresford once in the most original way.
He had a country place about an hour from London and invited me
to come down on a Sunday afternoon and meet some friends. It was
a delightful garden-party on an ideal English summer day. He
pressed me to stay for dinner, saying: "There will be a few friends
coming, whom I am anxious for you to know."
The friends kept coming, and after a while Lady Beresford said
to him: "We have set all the tables we have and the dining-room
and the adjoining room can hold. How many have you invited?"
The admiral answered: "I cannot remember, but if we delay the
dinner until a quarter of nine, I am sure they will all be here."
When we sat down we numbered over fifty. Lord Charles's abounding
and irresistible hospitality had included everybody whom he had met
the day before.
The butler came to Lord Charles shortly after we sat down and
said: "My lord, it is Sunday night, and the shops are all closed.
We can add nothing to what we have in the house, and the soup
has given out."
"Well," said this admirable strategist, "commence with those for
whom you have no soup with the fish. When the fish gives out,
start right on with the next course, and so to the close of the
dinner. In that way everybody will get something."
After a while the butler again approached the admiral and said:
"My lord, the champagne is all gone."
"Well," said Lord Charles, "start in on cider."
It was a merry company, and they all caught on to the situation.
The result was one of the most hilarious, enjoyable, and original
entertainments of my life. It lasted late, and everybody with
absolute sincerity declared he or she had had the best time ever.
I was asked to meet Lord John Fisher, in a way a rival of
Lord Beresford. Both were exceedingly able and brilliant officers
and men of achievement, but they were absolutely unlike; one had
all the characteristics of the Celt and the other of the Saxon.
One of the most interesting things in Lord Fisher's talk, especially
in view of later developments, was his description of the
discoveries and annexations to the British Empire, made by the
British navy. In regard to this he said: "The British navy had
been acquiring positions of strategic importance to the safety and
growth of the empire from time immemorial, and some fool of a
prime minister on a pure matter of sentiment is always giving away
to our possible enemies one or the other of these advantageous
positions." He referred especially to Heligoland, the gift of
which to Germany had taken place not long before. If Heligoland,
fortified like Gibraltar, had remained in the possession of the
British Government, Germany would not have ventured upon the late war.
Lord Fisher exemplified what I have often met with in men who have
won eminent distinction in some career, whose great desire was
to have fame in another and entirely different one. Apparently
he wished his friends and those he met to believe that he was
the best storyteller in the world; that he had the largest stock
of original anecdotes and told them better than anybody else.
I found that he was exceedingly impatient and irritable when any
one else started the inevitable "that reminds me," and he was
intolerant with the story the other was trying to tell. But I
discovered, also, that most of his stories, though told with great
enthusiasm, were very familiar, or, as we Americans would
During my summer vacations I spent two weeks or more at Homburg,
the German watering-pIace. It was at that time the most interesting
resort on the continent. The Prince of Wales, afterwards
King Edward VII, was always there, and his sister, the Dowager
Empress of Germany, had her castle within a few miles. It was
said that there was a quorum of both Houses of Parliament in
Homburg while the prince was there, but his presence also drew
representatives from every department of English life, the bench
and the bar, writers of eminence of both sexes, distinguished
artists, and people famous on both the dramatic and the operatic
stage. The prince, with keen discrimination, had these interesting
people always about him. There were also social leaders, whose
entertainments were famous in London, who did their best to add
to the pleasure of the visit of the prince. I met him frequently
and was often his guest at his luncheons and dinners. He fell
in at once in the Homburg way.
The routine of the cure was to be at the springs every morning
at seven o'clock, to take a glass of water, walk half an hour
with some agreeable companion, and repeat this until three glasses
had been consumed. Then breakfast, and after that the great
bathing-house at eleven o'clock. The bathing-house was a
meeting-place for everybody. Another meeting-place was the open-air
concerts in the afternoon. In the evening came the formal dinners
and some entertainment afterwards.
Both for luncheon and dinner the prince always had quite a large
company. He was a host of great charm, tact, and character. He
had a talent of drawing out the best there was in those about his
table, and especially of making the occasion very agreeable for
a stranger. Any one at his entertainments always carried away
either in the people he met or the things that were said, or both,
I do not think the prince bothered about domestic questions. He
was very observant of the limitations and restrictions which the
English Government imposes upon royalty. He was, however, very
keen upon his country's foreign relations. In the peace of Europe
he was an important factor, being so closely allied with the imperial
houses of Germany and Russia. There is no doubt that he prevented
the German Emperor from acquiring a dangerous control over the
Czar. He was very fixed and determined to maintain and increase
friendly relations between the United States and Great Britain.
He succeeded, after many varied and long-continued efforts, in
doing away with the prejudices and hostilities of the French
towards the English, an accomplishment of infinite value to his
country in these later years.
I was told that the prince required very little sleep, that he
retired to bed late and was an early riser. I was awakened one
night by his equerry calling me up, saying the prince was on
the terrace of the KursaaI and wanted to see me. The lights were
all out, everybody had gone, and he was sitting alone at a table
illuminated by a single candle. What he desired was to discuss
American affairs and become more familiar with our public men,
our ideals, our policies, and especially any causes which could
possibly be removed of irritation between his own country and
ours. This discussion lasted till daylight.
Meeting him on the street one day, he stopped and asked me to
step aside into an opening there was in the hedge. He seemed
laboring under considerable excitement, and said: "Why do the
people in the United States want to break up the British Empire?"
I knew he referred to the Home Rule bill for Ireland, which was
then agitating Parliament and the country, and also the frequent
demonstrations in its favor which were occurring in the United States.
I said to him: "Sir, I do not believe there is a single American
who has any thought of breaking up the British Empire. We are
wedded to the federal principle of independent States, which are
sovereign in their local affairs and home matters, but on
everything you call imperial the United States is supreme. To
vindicate this principle we fought a Civil War, in which we lost
more lives, spent more money, destroyed more property, and incurred
more debt than any contest of modern time. The success of the
government has been so complete that the States which were in
rebellion and their people are quite as loyal to the general
government as those who fought to preserve it. The prosperity
of the country, with this question settled, has exceeded the bounds
of imagination. So Americans think of your trouble with Ireland
in terms of our federated States and believe that all your
difficulties could be adjusted in the same way."
We had a long discussion in which he asked innumerabIe questions,
and never referred to the subject again. I heard afterwards among
my English friends that he who had been most hostile was becoming
a Home Ruler.
At another time he wanted to know why our government had treated
the British ambassador, Lord Sackville West, so badly and ruined
his career. The Sackville West incident was already forgotten,
though it was the liveliest question of its time.
Cleveland was president and a candidate for re-eIection.
Sackville West was the British ambassador. A little company of
shrewd Republican politicians in California thought if they could
get an admission that the British Government was interfering in
our election in favor of Cleveland, it would be a fine asset in
the campaign, and so they wrote to Lord Sackville West, telling
him they were Englishmen who had become naturalized American
citizens. In voting they were anxious to vote for the side which
would be best for their native land; would he kindly and very
confidentially advise them whether to support the Democratic or
the Republican ticket. SackvilIe West swallowed the bait without
investigation, and wrote them a letter advising them to vote the
There never had been such consternation in diplomatic circles in
Washington. Of course, Mr. Cleveland and his supporters had to
get out from under the situation as quickly and gracefully as possible.
The administration instantly demanded that the British Government
should recall Lord Sackville West, which was done, and he was
repudiated for his activity in American politics. It was curious
that the prince had apparently never been fully informed of
the facts, but had been misled by Sackville West's explanation,
and the prince was always loyal to a friend.
One year Mr. James G. Blaine visited Homburg, and the prince
at once invited him to luncheon. Blaine's retort to a question
delighted every American in the place. One of the guests was
the then Duke of Manchester, an old man and a great Tory. When
the duke grasped that Blaine was a leading American and had been
a candidate for the presidency of the United States, all his old
Toryism was aroused, and he was back in the days of George III.
To the horror of the prince, the duke said to Mr. Blaine: "The most
outrageous thing in all history was your rebellion and separation
from the best government on earth." He said much more before
the prince could stop him.
Blaine, with that grace and tact for which he was so famous,
smilingly said: "Well, your Grace, if George III had had the sense,
tact, and winning qualities of his great-grandson, our host, it is
just possible that we might now be a self-governing colony in
the British Empire."
The answer relieved the situation and immensely pleased the host.
Lord Rosebery once said in a speech that, with the tremendous
growth in every element of greatness of the United States, if the
American colonies had remained in the British Empire, with their
preponderating influence and prestige, the capital of Great Britain
might have been moved to New York and Buckingham Palace rebuilt
in Central Park.
At another dinner one of the guests of the prince suddenly shot
at me across the table the startling question: "Do you know
certain American heiresses"--naming them--"now visiting London?"
I answered "Yes"--naming one especially, a very beautiful and
accomplished girl who was quite the most popular debutante of
the London season.
"How much has she?" he asked.
I named the millions which she would probably inherit. "But,"
I added, "before you marry an American heiress, you better be sure
that she can say the Lord's Prayer."
He said with great indignation that he would be astonished if any
American girl could be recognized in English society who had been
so badly brought up that she was not familiar with the Lord's Prayer.
"All of them are," I replied, "but few heiresses, unless they have
come into their inheritance and can say 'Our Father, who art in
heaven,' will inherit much, because American fathers are very
He continued to express his astonishment at this lack of religious
training in an American family, while the prince enjoyed the joke
so much that I was fearful in his convulsive laughter he would have
a fit of apoplexy.
Once, at a dinner given by the prince, an old lady of very high
rank and leading position said suddenly to me, and in a way which
aroused the attention of the whole company: "Is it true that
divorces are very common in America?"
I knew that a denial by me would not convince her or any others
who shared in this belief, then very common in Europe. Of course,
the prince knew better. I saw from his expression that he wished
me to take advantage of the opportunity. I made up my mind quickly
that the best way to meet this belief was by an exaggeration which
would show its absurdity.
Having once started, the imaginative situation grew beyond my
anticipation. I answered: "Yes, divorces are so common with us
that the government has set aside one of our forty-odd States for
this special purpose. It is the principal business of the authorities.
Most of these actions for divorce take place at the capital, which
is always crowded with great numbers of people from all parts of
the country seeking relief from their marital obligations."
"Did you ever visit that capital?" asked the prince.
"Yes, several times," I answered, "but not for divorce. My domestic
relations have always been very happy, but it is also a famous
health resort, and I went there for the cure."
"Tell us about your visit," said the prince.
"Well," I continued, "it was out of season when I was first there,
so the only amusement or public occasions of interest were
The old lady asked excitedly: "Share meetings?" She had been
a large and unfortunate investor in American stocks.
I relieved her by saying: "No, not share meetings, but religious
prayer-meetings. I remember one evening that the gentleman who
sat beside me turned suddenly to his wife and said: 'We must get
out of here at once; the air is too close.' 'Why, no,' she said;
'the windows are all open and the breeze is fresh.' 'Yes,' he
quickly remarked, 'but next to you are your two predecessors from
whom I was divorced, and that makes the air too close for me.'"
The old lady exclaimed: "What a frightful condition!"
"Tell us more," said the prince.
"Well," I continued, "one day the mayor of the city invited me
to accompany him to the station, as the divorce train was about
to arrive. I found at the station a judge and one of the court
attendants. The attendant had a large package of divorce decrees
to which the seal of the court had been attached, and also the
signature of the judge. They only required to have the name of
the party desiring divorce inserted. Alongside the judge stood
a clergyman of the Established Church in full robes of his sacred
office. When the passengers had all left the cars, the conductor
jumped on to one of the car platforms and shouted to the crowd:
'All those who desire divorce will go before the judge and make
"When they had all been released by the court the conductor again
called out: 'All those who have been accompanied by their partners,
or where both have been to-day released from their former husbands
and wives to be remarried, will go before the rector.' He married
them in a body, whereupon they all resumed their places on the
train. The blowing of the whistle and the ringing of the bell on
the locomotive was the music of their first, second, or third
The old lady threw up her hands in horror and cried: "Such an
impious civilization must come speedily not only to spiritual and
moral destruction, but chaos."
Most of the company saw what an amazing caricature the whole story
was and received it with great hilarity. The effect of it was to
end, for that circle, at least, and their friends, a serious
discussion of the universality of American divorces.
The prince was always an eager sportsman and a very chivalric
one. At the time of one of the races at Cowes he became very
indignant at the conduct of an American yachtsman who had entered
his boat. It was charged by the other competitors that this
American yachtsman violated all the unwritten laws of the contest.
After the race the prince said to me: "A yacht is a gentleman's
home, whether it is racing or sailing about for pleasure. The
owner of this yacht, to make her lighter and give her a better
chance, removed all the furniture and stripped her bare. He even
went so far, I am told, that when he found the steward had left
his stateroom a tooth-brush, he threw it out of the port window."
It will be seen from these few anecdotes how intensely human was
the Prince of Wales. He did much for his country, both as prince
and king, and filled in a wise and able way the functions of his
office. Certainly no official did quite so much for the peace of
Europe during his time, and no royalty ever did more to make the
throne popular with the people. I heard him speak at both formal
and informal occasions, and his addresses were always tactful
While at Homburg we used to enjoy the delightful excursions to
Nauheim, the famous nerve-cure place. I met there at one time
a peculiar type of Americans, quite common in former years. They
were young men who, having inherited fortunes sufficient for their
needs, had no ambitions. After a strenuous social life at home
and in Europe, they became hypochondriacs and were chasing cures
for their imaginary ills from one resort to another.
One of them, who had reached middle life, had, of course, become
in his own opinion a confirmed invalid. I asked him: "What
brought you here? You look very well."
"That is just my trouble," he answered. "I look very well and
so get no sympathy, but my nervous system is so out of order that
it only takes a slight shock to completely disarrange it. For
instance, the cause of my present trouble. I was dining in Paris
at the house of a famous hostess, and a distinguished company
was present. The only three Americans were two ladies and myself.
I was placed between them. You know one of these ladies, while
a great leader at home, uses very emphatic language when she is
irritated. The dinner, like most French dinners, with many
courses, was unusually long. Suddenly this lady, leaning over
me, said to her sister: 'Damn it, Fan, will this dinner never end?'
The whole table was shocked and my nerves were completely shattered."
The great war, as I think, exterminated this entire tribe.
I was delighted to find at Nauheim my old friends, Mark Twain and
the Reverend Doctor Joseph Twichell, of Hartford, Conn. Doctor
Twichell was Mark Twain's pastor at home. He was in college with
me at Yale, and I was also associated with him in the governing
corporation of Yale University. He was one of the finest wits
and remarkable humorists of his time. Wit and humor were with
him spontaneous, and he bubbled over with them. Mark Twain's
faculties in that line were more labored and had to be worked out.
Doctor Twichell often furnished in the rough the jewels which
afterwards in Mark Twain's workshop became perfect gems.
I invited them to come over and spend the day and dine with me
in the evening at Homburg. Mark Twain at that time had the
reputation in England of being the greatest living wit and humorist.
It soon spread over Homburg that he was in town and was to dine
with me in the evening, and requests came pouring in to be invited.
I kept enlarging my table at the Kursaal, with these requests,
until the management said they could go no farther. I placed
Mark Twain alongside Lady Cork, one of the most brilliant women
in England. In the course of years of acquaintance I had met
Mark Twain under many conditions. He was very uncertain in a
social gathering. Sometimes he would be the life of the occasion
and make it one to be long remembered, but generally he contributed
nothing. At this dinner, whenever he showed the slightest sign
of making a remark, there was dead silence, but the remark did
not come. He had a charming time, and so did Lady Cork, but the
rest of the company heard nothing from the great humorist, and
they were greatly disappointed.
The next morning Mark Twain came down to the springs in his
tramping-suit, which had fairly covered the continent. I introduced
him to the Prince of Wales, and he was charmed with him in their
hour of walk and talk. At dinner that evening the prince said
to me: "I would have invited Mark Twain this evening, if I thought
he had with him any dinner clothes."
"At my dinner last night," I said, "he met every conventional
"Then," continued the prince, "I would be much obliged if you
would get him for dinner with me to-morrow evening."
It was very much the same company as had dined with the prince
the night before. Again Twain was for a long time a complete
disappointment. I knew scores of good things of his and tried
my best to start him off, but without success. The prince, who
was unusually adroit and tactful in drawing a distinguished guest
out, also failed. When the dinner was over, however, and we had
reached the cigars, Mark Twain started in telling a story in his
most captivating way. His peculiar drawl, his habit in emphasizing
the points by shaking his bushy hair, made him a dramatic narrator.
He never had greater success. Even the veteran Mark himself was
astonished at the uproarious laughter which greeted almost every
sentence and was overwhelming when he closed.
There are millions of stories in the world, and several hundred
of them good ones. No one knew more of them than Mark Twain,
and yet out of this vast collection he selected the one which
I had told the night before to the same company. The laughter
and enjoyment were not at the story, but because the English had,
as they thought, caught me in retailing to them from Mark Twain's
repertoire one of his stories. It so happened that it was a story
which I had heard as happening upon our railroad in one of my
tours of inspection. I had told it in a speech, and it had been
generally copied in the American newspapers. Mark Twain's
reputation as the greatest living humorist caused that crowd to
doubt the originality of my stories.
Mark had declined the cigars, but the prince was so delighted that
he offered him one of the highly prized selection from his own
case. This drew from him a story, which I have not seen in any
of his books. I have read Mark Twain always with the greatest
pleasure. His books of travel have been to me a source of endless
interest, and his "Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc" is the
best representation of the saint and heroine that I know.
When the prince offered him the cigar, Mark said: "No, prince,
I never smoke. I have the reputation in Hartford, Conn., of
furnishing at my entertainments the worst of cigars. When I was
going abroad, and as I would be away for several years, I gave
a reception and invited all my friends. I had the governor of
the State of Connecticut and the judges of the highest courts,
and the most distinguished members of the legislature. I had
the leading clergymen and other citizens, and also the president
and faculty of Yale University and Trinity College.
"At three o'clock in the afternoon my butler, who is a colored
man, Pompey by name, came to me and said: 'Mr. Clemens, we have
no cigars.' Just then a pedler's wagon stopped at the gate. In
England they call them cheap jacks. I hailed the merchant and
said: 'What have you in your wagon?' 'Well,' he answered, 'I have
some Gobelin tapestries, Sevres china, and Japanese cloisonne
vases, and a few old masters.' Then I said to him: 'I do not
want any of those, but have you cigars, and how much?' The pedler
answered: 'Yes, sir, I have some excellent cigars, which I will
sell you at seventeen cents a barrel.' I have to explain that
a cent is an English farthing. Then I told him to roll a barrel in."
"It was a great occasion, one of the greatest we ever had in the
old State of Connecticut," continued Mark, "but I noticed that
the guests left unusually early after supper. The next morning
I asked the butler why they left so early. 'Well,' he said,
'Mr. Clemens, everybody enjoyed the supper, and they were all
having a good time until I gave them the cigars. After the gentleman
had taken three puffs, he said: "Pomp, you infernal nigger, get
me my hat and coat quick." When I went out, my stone walk, which
was one hundred yards long from the front door to the gate, was
just paved with those cigars.'" This specimen of American
exaggeration told in Mark Twain's original way made a great hit.
I met Mark Twain at a theatrical supper in London given by
Sir Henry Irving. It was just after his pubIishing firm had failed
so disastrously. It was a notable company of men of letters,
playwrights, and artists. Poor Mark was broken in health and
spirits. He tried to make a speech, and a humorous one, but it
saddened the whole company.
I met him again after he had made the money on his remarkable
lecture tour around the world, with which he met and paid all his
debts. It was an achievement worthy of the famous effort of
Sir Walter Scott. Jubilant, triumphant, and free, Mark Twain that
night was the hero never forgotten by any one privileged to
One year, after strenuous work and unusual difficulties, which,
however, had been successfully met, I was completely exhausted.
I was advised to take a short trip to Europe, and, as usual, the
four weeks' change of air and occupation was a complete cure.
I decided to include Rome in my itinerary, though I felt that my
visit would be something like the experience of Phineas Fogg, who
did the whole of Europe and saw all there was of it in ten days.
When I arrived in the Eternal City, my itinerary gave me four days
there. I wanted to see everything and also to meet, if possible,
one of the greatest of popes, Leo XIII. I was armed only with a
letter from my accomplished and distinguished friend, Archbishop
Corrigan. I secured the best-known guide, who informed me that
my efforts to see the sights within my limited time would be
impossible. Nevertheless, the incentive of an extra large commission
dependent upon distances covered and sights seen, led to my going
through the streets behind the best team of horses in Rome and
pursued by policemen and dogs, and the horses urged on by a driver
frantic for reward, and a guide who professionally and financially
was doing the stunt of his life. It was astounding how much ground
was really covered in the city of antiquities and art by this
devotion to speed and under competent guidance.
When I asked to see the pope, I was informed that his health was
not good and audiences had been suspended. I wrote a letter
to the cardinal-secretary, enclosing Archbishop Corrigan's letter,
and stated my anxiety to meet His Holiness and the limited time
I had. A few hours afterwards I received a letter from the cardinal
stating that the Holy Father appreciated the circumstances, and
would be very glad to welcome me in private audience at eleven
o'clock the next morning.
When I arrived at the Vatican I was received as a distinguished
visitor. The papal guards were turned out, and I was finally
ushered into the room of Cardinal Merry del Val. He was a young
man then and an accomplished diplomat, and most intimately informed
on all questions of current interest. Literature, music, drama,
political conditions in Europe were among his accomplishments.
He said the usual formula when a stranger is presented to the pope
is for the guest to kneel and kiss his ring. The pope has decided
that all this will be omitted in your case. He will receive you
exactly as an eminent foreigner calling by appointment upon the
President of the United States.
When I was ushered into the presence of the pope he left his
throne, came forward, grasped me cordially by the hand, and welcomed
me in a very charming way. He was not a well man, and his bloodless
countenance was as white and pallid as his robes. This was all
relieved, however, by the brilliancy of his wonderful eyes.
After a few preliminary remarks he plunged into the questions in
which he was deeply interested. He feared the spread of communism
and vividly described its efforts to destroy the church, ruin
religion, extirpate faith, and predicted that if successful it
would destroy civilization.
I told him that I was deeply interested in the encyclical he had
recently issued to reconcile or make more harmonious the relations
between capital and labor. He commenced speaking upon that
subject, and in a few minutes I saw that I was to be privileged
to hear an address from one who as priest and bishop had been
one of the most eloquent orators of the age. In his excitement he
leaned forward, grasping the arms of the throne, the color returned
to his cheeks, his eyes flashed, his voice was vibrant, and I was
the audience, the entranced audience of the best speech I ever
heard upon the question of labor and capital.
I was fearful on account of his health, that the exertion might be
too great, and so arose to leave. He again said to me, and taking
my hand: "I know all about you and am very grateful to you that
in your official capacity as president of the New York Central
Railroad you are treating so fairly the Catholics. I know that
among your employees twenty-eight thousand are of the Catholic
faith, and not one of them has ever known any discrimination
because of their belief, but all of them have equal opportunities
with the others for the rewards of their profession and protection
in their employment."
The next day he sent a special messenger for a renewal of the
conversation, but unhappily I had left Rome the night before.
During my stay in Rome of four days I had visited most of its
antiquities, its famous churches, and spent several hours in the
Vatican gallery. Our American minister, one of the most accomplished
of our diplomats, Mr. William Potter, had also given me a dinner,
where I was privileged to meet many celebrities of the time.
Among English statesmen I found in Lord Salisbury an impressive
figure. In a long conversation I had with him at the Foreign Office
he talked with great freedom on the relations between the
United States and Great Britain. He was exceedingly anxious that
friendly conditions should continue and became most cordial.
The frequent disposition on the part of American politicians to
issue a challenge or create eruptions disturbed him. I think he
was in doubt when President Cleveland made his peremptory demands
on the Venezuela boundary question if the president recognized
their serious importance, both for the present and the future. He,
however, reluctantly yielded to the arbitration, won a complete
victory, and was satisfied that such irritating questions were
mainly political and for election purposes, and had better be met
in a conciliatory spirit.
I remember a garden-party at Hatfield House, the historical home
of the Cecils, given in honor of King Victor Emmanuel III, who
had recently come to the throne. Lord Salisbury was of gigantic
proportions physically, while the king was undersized. The contrast
between the two was very striking, especially when they were in
animated conversation--the giant prime minister talking down to
His Majesty, and he with animated gestures talking up to the premier.
It is not too great a stretch of imagination, when one knows how
traditional interviews and conversations between European rulers
affect their relations, present and future, to find in that
entertainment and conference that the seed there was sown for
the entrance of Italy, at one of the crises of the Great War, on
the side of the Allies and against Germany, to whom she was bound
by the Triple Alliance.
Mr. Gladstone said to me at one time: "I have recently met a most
interesting countryman of yours. He is one of the best-informed
and able men of any country whom I have had the pleasure of talking
with for a long time, and he is in London now. I wish you would
tell me all about him."
Mr. Gladstone could not recall his name. As there were a number
of American congressmen in London, I asked: "Was he a congressman?"
"No," he answered; "he had a more important office."
I then remembered that DeWitt Clinton, when a United States senator,
resigned to become mayor of the City of New York. On that
inspiration I asked: "Mayor of the City of New York?"
"Yes, that is it," Mr. Gladstone answered.
I then told him that it was Abram S. Hewitt, and gave him a
description of Mr. Hewitt's career. Mr. Gladstone was most
enthusiastic about him.
It was my fortune to know Mr. Hewitt very well for many years.
He richly merited Mr. Gladstone's encomium. He was one of the
most versatile and able Americans in public or private life during
his time. His father was an English tenant-farmer who moved with
his family to the United States. Mr. Hewitt received a liberal
education and became a great success both in business and public
life. He was much more than a business man, mayor of New York,
or a congressman--he was public-spirited and a wise reformer.
Mr. Hewitt told me two interesting incidents in his career. When
he visited England he was received with many and flattering
attentions. Among his invitations was a week-end to the home
of the nobleman upon whose estates his father had been a
tenant-farmer. When Mr. Hewitt told the nobleman, who was
entertaining him as a distinguished American, about his father's
former relations as one of his tenants, the nobleman said: "Your
father made a great mistake in giving up his farm and emigrating
to the United States. He should have remained here."
Mr. Hewitt said: "But, my lord, so far as I am concerned I do
not think so."
"Why?" asked his lordship.
"Because," answered Mr. Hewitt, "then I could never have been a
guest on equal terms in your house."
Mr. Hewitt was one of the foremost iron founders and steel
manufacturers of the country. At the time of our Civil War our
government was very short of guns, and we were unable to manufacture
them because we did not know the secret of gun-metal.
The government sent Mr. Hewitt abroad to purchase guns. The English
gunmakers at once saw the trouble he was in and took advantage
of it. They demanded prices several times greater than they were
asking from other customers, and refused to give him any information
about the manufacture of gun-metal.
After he had made the contract, with all its exorbitant conditions,
he went to his hotel and invited the foreman of each department
of the factory to meet him. They all came. Mr. Hewitt explained
to them his mission, and found that they were sympathetic with
Mr. Lincoln and his administration and the Union cause. Then he
told them of the trouble he had had with their employers, and the
hard terms which they had imposed. He asked them then all about
the manufacture of gun-metal. Each one of the foremen was very
clear and explicit as to his part, and so when they had all spoken,
Mr. Hewitt, with his expert knowledge of the business, knew all
the secrets of the manufacture of gun-metaI, which he, of course,
gave to the government at Washington for use in their several
arsenals and shops.
"Now," he said to his guests, "you have done me a great favor.
I will return it. Your company is obliged by the contract to
deliver this immense order within a limited time. They are going
to make an enormous amount of money out of it. You strike and
demand what you think is right, and you will get it immediately."
The gun company made a huge profit but had to share some of it
with their workers. It was an early instance of the introduction
of profit-sharing, which has now become common all over the world.
One of the most interesting Englishmen, whom I saw much of both
in London and in the United States, was Sir Henry Irving. The world
of art, drama, and history owes much to him for his revival of
Shakespeare. Irving was a genius in his profession, and in private
life perfectly delightful.
He gave me a dinner and it was, like everything he did, original.
Instead of the usual formal entertainment, he had the dinner at
one of the old royal castles in the country, which had become a
very exclusive hotel. He carried us out there in coaches.
The company of authors, playwrights, and men of affairs made the
entertainment late and the evening memorable. Returning home
on the top of the coach, the full moon would appear and reappear,
but was generally under a cloud. Irving remarked: "I do much
better with that old moon in my theatre. I make it shine or
obscure it with clouds, as the occasion requires."
I received a note from him at the time of his last visit to the
United States, in which he said that a friend from the western part
of the country was giving him a dinner at Delmonico's to precede
his sailing in the early morning on his voyage home. The company
was to be large and all good friends, and he had the positive
assurance that there would be no speaking, and wished I would come.
The dinner was everything that could be desired. The company was
a wonderful one of distinguished representatives of American life.
The hours passed along rapidly and joyously, as many of these
original men contributed story, racy adventure, or song.
Suddenly the host arose and said: "Gentlemen, we have with us
to-night--" Of course, that meant an introductory speech about
Irving and a reply from the guest. Irving turned to me, and in
his deepest and most tragic Macbeth voice said: "God damn his
soul to hell!" However, he rose to the occasion, and an hour or
so afterwards, when everybody else had spoken, not satisfied with
his first effort, he arose and made a much better and longer
speech. He was an admirable after-dinner speaker as well as
an unusual actor. His wonderful presentations, not only of
Shakespeare's but of other dramas, did very much for the stage
both in his own country and in ours.
Those who heard him only in his last year had no conception of
him in his prime. In his later years he fell into the fault, so
common with public speakers and actors, of running words together
and failing to articulate clearly. I have known a fine speech and
a superior sermon and a great part in a play ruined because of
the failure to articulate clearly. The audience could not follow
the speaker and so lost interest.
Sir Henry told me a delightful story about Disraeli. A young
relative of Irving's took orders and became a clergyman in the
Established Church. At the request of Irving, Disraeli appointed
this young man one of the curates at Windsor.
One day the clergyman came to Irving in great distress and said:
"The unexpected has happened. Every one has dropped out, and
I have been ordered to preach on Sunday."
Irving took him to see Disraeli for advice. The prime minister
said to the young clergyman: "If you preach thirty minutes,
Her Majesty will be bored. If you preach fifteen minutes,
Her Majesty will be pleased. If you preach ten minutes, Her Majesty
will be delighted."
"But," said the young clergyman, "my lord, what can a preacher
possibly say in only ten minutes?"
"That," answered the statesman, "will be a matter of indifference
to Her Majesty."
Sir Frederick Leighton, the eminent English artist, and at one time
president of the Royal Academy, was one of the most charming men
of his time. His reminiscences were delightful and told with rare
dramatic effect. I remember a vivid description which he gave me
of the wedding of one of the British royalties with a German
princess. Sir Frederick was one of the large and distinguished
delegation which accompanied the prince.
The principality of the bride's father had been shorn of territory,
power, and revenue during the centuries. Nevertheless, at the
time of the wedding he maintained a ministry, the same as in the
Middle Ages, and a miniature army. Palaces, built centuries
before, housed the Cabinet.
The minister of foreign affairs came to Sir Frederick and unbosomed
himself of his troubles. He said: "According to the usual
procedure I ought to give a ball in honor of the union of our house
with the royal family of England. My palace is large enough, but
my salary is only eight hundred a year, and the expense would eat
up the whole of it."
Sir Frederick said: "Your Excellency can overcome the difficulty
in an original way. The state band can furnish the music, and
that will cost nothing. When the time comes for the banquet,
usher the guests with due ceremony to a repast of beer and pretzels."
The minister followed the instructions. The whole party appreciated
the situation, and the minister was accredited with the most
brilliant and successful ball the old capital had known for a century.
For several years one of the most interesting men in Europe was
the Duke d'Aumale, son of Louis Philippe. He was a statesman
and a soldier of ability and a social factor of the first rank.
He alone of the French royalty was relieved from the decree of
perpetual banishment and permitted to return to France and enjoy
his estates. In recognition of this he gave his famous chateau
and property at Chantilly to the French Academy. The gift was
valued at ten millions of dollars. In the chateau at Chantilly
is a wonderful collection of works of art.
I remember at one dinner, where the duke was the guest of honor,
those present, including the host, were mostly new creations in
the British peerage. After the conversation had continued for
some time upon the fact that a majority of the House of Lords had
been raised to the peerage during the reign of Queen Victoria,
those present began to try and prove that on account of their
ancient lineage they were exempt from the rule of parvenu peers.
The duke was very tolerant with this discussion and, as always,
the soul of politeness.
The host said: "Your Royal Highness, could you oblige us with
a sketch of your ancestry?"
"Oh, certainly," answered the duke; "it is very brief. My family,
the Philippes, are descendants from AEneas of Troy, and AEneas
was the son of Venus." The mushrooms seemed smaller than even
the garden variety.
The duke was talking to me at one time very interestingly about the
visit of his father to America. At the time of the French Revolution
his father had to flee for his life and came to the United States.
He was entertained at Mount Vernon by Washington. He told me
that after his father became King of France, he would often
hesitate, or refuse to do something or write something which his
ministers desired. The king's answer always was: "When I visited
that greatest man of all the world, General Washington, at his
home, I asked him at one time: 'General, is it not possible that
in your long and wonderful career as a soldier and statesman that
you have made mistakes?' The general answered: 'I have never
done anything which I cared to recall or said anything which I would
not repeat,' and the king would say: 'I cannot do that or sign
that, because if I do I cannot say for myself what General Washington
said of himself.'"
The duke asked me to spend a week-end with him at Chantilly, and
it is one of the regrets of my life that I was unable to accept.
I happened to be in London on two successive Sundays. On the first
I went to Westminster Abbey to hear Canon Farrar preach. The
sermon was worthy of its wonderful setting. Westminster Abbey is
one of the most inspiring edifices in the world. The orator has to
reach a high plane to be worthy of its pulpit. I have heard many
dull discourses there because the surroundings refuse to harmonize
with mediocrity. The sermon of Canon Farrar was classic. It
could easily have taken a place among the gems of English
literature. It seemed to me to meet whatever criticism the eminent
dead, buried in that old mausoleum, might have of these modern
utterances. I left the Abbey spiritually and mentally elated.
The next Sunday I went to hear Charles Spurgeon. It was a wonderful
contrast. Spurgeon's Metropolitan Tabernacle was a very plain
structure of immense proportions but with admirable acoustics.
There was none of the historic enshrining the church, which is
the glory of Westminster Abbey, no church vestments or ceremonials.
Mr. Spurgeon, a plain, stocky-looking man, came out on the platform
dressed in an ordinary garb of black coat, vest, and trousers.
It was a vast audience of what might be called middle-class people.
Mr. Spurgeon's sermon was a plain, direct, and exceedingly forcible
appeal to their judgment and emotions. There was no attempt at
rhetoric, but hard, hammerlike blows. As he rose in his indignation
and denunciation of some current evils, and illustrated his
argument with the Old Testament examples of the punishment of
sinners, the audience became greatly excited. One of the officers
of the church, in whose pew I sat, groaned aloud and gripped his
hands so that the nails left their mark. Others around him were
in the same frame of mind and spirit.
I saw there and then that the men who fought with Cromwell and won
the battle of Naseby had in modern England plenty of descendants.
They had changed only in outward deference to modern usages and
conditions. If there had been occasion, Mr. Spurgeon could have
led them for any sacrifice to what they believed to be right.
I felt the power of that suppressed feeling--I would not say
fanaticism, but intense conscientiousness--which occasionally
in elections greatly surprises English politicians.
Canon Farrar's sermon easily takes its place among the selected
books of the library. Spurgeon's address was straight from the
shoulder, blow for blow, for the needs of the hour.
One of the novel incidents of the generous hospitality which I
enjoyed every year in London was a dinner at the Athenaeum Club
given to me by one of the members of the government at that time.
He was a gentleman of high rank and political importance. There
were twenty-six at the dinner, and it was a representative gathering.
At the conclusion our host made a very cordial speech on more
intimate relations between the United States and Great Britain,
and then in a complimentary phrase introduced me, saying: "I hope
you will speak freely and without limit."
I was encouraged by a most sympathetic audience and had a good
time during my effort. No one else was called upon. My host was
complimentary and said: "Your speech was so satisfactory that
I thought best not to have any more."
Some time afterwards he said to me: "Many of my friends had heard
of you but never heard you, so I made up my mind to give them
the opportunity, and what was really a purely social affair for
every other guest, I turned into an international occasion just
to draw you out. However, the fraud, if it was a fraud, was an
No one in England did more for Americans than Sir Henry Lucy.
Every American knew all about him, because of his reputation, and
particularly because he was the author of that most interesting
column in Punch called the "Essence of Parliament."
At his luncheons he gathered eminent men in public life and in
the literary and journalistic activities of Great Britain. These
luncheons were most informal, and under the hospitable genius
of Lucy the guests became on intimate terms. There was no table
in London where so many racy stories and sometimes valuable
historical reminiscences could be heard.
To be a guest at one of Sir Lucy's luncheons was for an American
to meet on familiar terms with distinguished men whom he knew all
about and was most anxious to see and hear.
At a large dinner I had a pleasant encounter with Sir Henry.
In order to meet another engagement, he tried to slip quietly
out while I was speaking. I caught sight of his retreating figure
and called loudly the refrain of the familiar song, "Linger longer,
Lucy." The shout of the crowd brought Sir Henry back, and the
other entertainment lost a guest.
In several of my visits to London I went to see not only places
of interest but also houses and streets made famous in English
literature. In one of my many trips to St. Paul's Cathedral I was
looking at the tomb of the Duke of Wellington in the crypt and
also at the modest tomb of Cruikshank, the artist, near by.
The superintendent asked me who I was and many questions about
America, and then said: "Many Americans come here, but the most
remarkable of them all was Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll. He was
very inquisitive and wanted to know all about Wellington's tomb.
I told him that the duke's body was first put in a wooden coffin,
and this was incased in steel; that this had made for it a position
in a stone weighing twenty tons and over that was a huge stone
weighing forty tons. He gave me a slap on the back which sent
me flying quite a distance and exclaimed: 'Old man, you have
got him safe. If he ever escapes cable at my expense to
Robert G. Ingersoll, Peoria, Illinois, U. S. A.'"
I had an opportunity to know that the war by Germany against France
and England was a surprise to both countries. While in London
during part of June, 1914, I met Cabinet ministers and members
of Parliament, and their whole thought and anxiety were concentrated
on the threatened revolution in Ireland.
The Cabinet had asked the king to intervene and he had called
representatives of all parties to meet him at Buckingham Palace.
After many consultations he declared settlement or compromise were
impossible. The situation was so critical that it absorbed the
attention of the government, the press, and the public.
About the first of July I was in Paris and found the French worried
about their finances and the increase in their military expenses
which were reaching threatening figures. The syndicate of French
bankers were seriously alarmed. There was no suspicion of German
purpose and preparations for attack.
While in Geneva a few weeks afterwards I became alarmed by letters
from relatives in Germany who were socially intimate with people
holding very important positions in the government and the army,
and their apprehensions from what their German friends told them
and what they saw led to their joining us in Switzerland.
One day the Swiss refused to take foreign money or to make exchange
for Swiss, or to cash letters of credit or bank checks. I immediately
concluded that the Swiss bankers knew of or suspected Germany's
hostile intentions, and with only two hours, and two families
with their trunks to pack, we managed to reach and secure
accommodations on the regular train for Paris. There was nothing
unusual either at the railroad station or in the city.
One of the amusing incidents which are my life-preservers occurred
at the station. Two elderly English spinsters were excitedly
discussing the currency trouble. One of them smoothed out a bank
of England note and said to her sister: "There, Sarah, is a bank
of England note which has been good as gold all over the world
since Christ came to earth, and these Swiss pigs won't take it."
I told this incident afterwards to a banker in London. He said
they were very ignorant women, there were no bank of England notes
at that time.
German hostility developed so rapidly that our train was the last
which left Switzerland for France for nearly two months. We were
due in Paris at ten o'clock in the evening, but did not arrive until
the next morning because of the mobilization of French recruits.
The excitement in Paris was intense. A French statesman said
to me: "We are doing our best to avoid war. Our troops are kept
ten kilometres from the frontier, but the Germans have crossed
and seized strategic points. They will hear nothing and accept
nothing and are determined to crush us if they can."
From all ranks of the people was heard: "We will fight to the
last man, but we are outnumbered and will be destroyed unless
England helps. Will England help? Will England help?" I have
been through several crises but never witnessed nor felt such
a reaction to ecstatic joy as occurred when Great Britain joined
The restrictions on leaving Paris required time, patience, and
all the resources of our Embassy to get us out of France. The
helpfulness, resourcefulness, and untiring efforts of our Ambassador,
Myron T. Herrick, won the gratitude of all Americans whom the war
had interned on the continent and who must get home.
There was a remarkable change in England. When we left in July
there was almost hysteria over the threatening civil war. In October
the people were calm though involved in the greatest war in their
history. They did not minimize the magnitude of the struggle, or
the sacrifices it would require. There was a characteristic grim
determination to see the crisis through, regardless of cost.
Cabinet ministers whom I met thought the war would last three years.
The constant appeal to me, as to other Americans, was, "When will
you join us? If we fail it is your turn next. It is autocracy and
militarism against civilization, liberty, and representative
government for the whole world."
We had a perilous and anxious voyage home and found few grasping
the situation or working to be prepared for the inevitable, except
Theodore Roosevelt and General Wood.
XX. ORATORS AND CAMPAIGN SPEAKERS
During my college days at Yale Wendell Phillips, William Lloyd Garrison,
and Henry Ward Beecher were frequent lecturers, and generally
on the slavery question. I have heard most of the great orators
of the world, but none of them produced such an immediate and
lasting effect upon their audience as Wendell Phillips. He was
the finest type of a cultured New Englander. He was the recipient
of the best education possible in his time and with independent
means which enabled him to pursue his studies and career. Besides,
he was one of the handsomest men I ever saw upon the platform,
and in his inspired moments met one's imaginative conception
of a Greek god.
Phillips rarely made a gesture or spoke above the conversational,
but his musical voice reached the remotest comers of the hall.
The eager audience, fearful of losing a word, would bend forward
with open mouths as well as attentive ears. It was always a
hostile audience at the beginning of Mr. Phillips's address, but
before the end he swayed them to applause, tears, or laughter,
as a skilled performer upon a perfect instrument. His subject
was nearly always slavery, his views very extreme and for immediate
abolition, but at that time he had a very small following.
Nevertheless, his speeches, especially because of the riots and
controversies they caused, set people thinking, and largely
increased the hostility to slavery, especially to its extension.
I met Mr. Phillips one evening, after a lecture, at the house of
Professor Goodrich. He was most courtly and considerate to students
and invited questions. While I was charmed, even captivated, by
his eloquence, I had at that time very little sympathy with his
views. I said to him: "Mr. Phillips, your attack to-night upon
Caleb Cushing, one of the most eminent and able public men in
the country, was very vitriolic and most destructive of character
and reputation. It seems so foreign to all I know of you that,
if you will pardon me, I would like to know why you did it." He
answered: "I have found that people, as a rule, are not interested
in principles or their discussions. They are so absorbed in their
personal affairs that they do very little thinking upon matters
outside their business or vocation. They embody a principle in
some public man in whom they have faith, and so that man stands
for a great body of truth or falsehood, and may be exceedingly
dangerous because a large following connects the measure with
the man, and, therefore, if I can destroy the man who represents a
vicious principle I have destroyed the principle." It did not strike
me favorably at the time, nor does it now. Nevertheless, in politics
and in the battles of politics it represents a dynamic truth.
The perfect preparation of a speech was, in Wendell Phillip's
view, that one in which the mental operations were assisted in
no way by outside aid. Only two or three times in his life did
he prepare with pen and paper an address, and he felt that these
speeches were the poorest of his efforts. He was constantly
studying the art of oratory. In his daily walks or in his library
metaphors and similes were suggested, which he tucked away in
his memory, and he even studied action as he watched the muscular
movements of men whom he saw in public places. He believed that
a perfect speech could be prepared only after intense mental
concentration. Of course the mind must first be fortified by such
reading as provided facts. Having thus saturated his mind with
information, he would frequently lie extended for hours upon his
sofa, with eyes closed, making mental arrangements for the address.
In fact, he used to write his speeches mentally, as Victor Hugo
is said to have written some of his poems. A speech thus prepared,
Phillips thought, was always at the command of the speaker. It
might vary upon every delivery, and could be altered to meet
emergencies with the audience, but would always be practically
This method of preparation explains what has been a mystery to
many persons. The several reports of Phillips's lecture on
"The Lost Arts" differ in phraseology and even in arrangement.
Mr. Phillips did not read his speeches in print, and, therefore,
never revised one. He was firmly of the belief that the printed
thought and the spoken thought should be expressed in different
form, and that the master of one form could not be the master
of the other.
I met many young men like myself in the canvass of 1856, and also
made many acquaintances of great value in after-life. It was
difficult for the older stump speakers to change the addresses
they had been delivering for years, so that the young orators,
with their fresh enthusiasm, their intense earnestness and undoubting
faith, were more popular with the audiences, who were keenly alive
to the issues raised then by the new Republican party.
The Republican party was composed of Whigs and anti-slavery
Democrats. In this first campaign the old-timers among the Whigs
and the Democrats could not get over their long antagonism and
distrusted each other. The young men, whether their ancestry was
Democratic or Whig, were the amalgam which rapidly fused all
elements, so that the party presented a united front in the campaign
four years afterwards when Mr. Lincoln was elected.
In the course of that campaign I had as fellow speakers many times
on the platform statesmen of national reputation. These gentlemen,
with few exceptions, made heavy, ponderous, and platitudinous
speeches. If they ever had possessed humor they were afraid of it.
The crowd, however, would invariably desert the statesman for
the speaker who could give them amusement with instruction. The
elder statesmen said by way of advice: "While the people want
to be amused, they have no faith in a man or woman with wit or
anecdote. When it comes to the election of men to conduct public
affairs, they invariably prefer serious men." There is no doubt
that a reputation for wit has seriously impaired the prospects
of many of the ablest men in the country.
The only exception to this rule was Abraham Lincoln. But when
he ran for president the first time he was comparatively unknown
outside his State of Illinois. The campaign managers in their
literature put forward only his serious speeches, which were very
remarkable, especially the one he delivered in Cooper Union,
New York, which deeply impressed the thoughtful men of the East.
He could safely tell stories and jokes after he had demonstrated
his greatness as president. Then the people regarded his
story-telling as the necessary relief and relaxation of an
overburdened and overworked public servant. But before he had
demonstrated his genius as an executive, they would probably have
regarded these same traits as evidences of frivolity, unfitting
the possessor for great and grave responsibilities.
I had a very interesting talk on the subject with General Garfield,
when he was running for president. He very kindly said to me:
"You have every qualification for success in public life; you might
get anywhere and to the highest places except for your humor.
I know its great value to a speaker before an audience, but it is
dangerous at the polls. When I began in politics, soon after
graduation, I found I had a keen sense of humor, and that made
me the most sought-after of all our neighborhood speakers, but
I also soon discovered it was seriously impairing the public
opinion of me for responsible positions, so I decided to cut it
out. It was very difficult, but I have succeeded so thoroughly
that I can no longer tell a story or appreciate the point of one
when it is told to me. Had I followed my natural bent I should
not now be the candidate of my party for President of the
The reason so few men are humorists is that they are very shy of
humor. My own observations in studying the lives and works of
our public men demonstrate how thoroughly committed to this idea
they have been. There is not a joke, nor a mot, nor a scintilla
of humor irradiating the Revolutionary statesmen. There is a
stilted dignity about their utterances which shows that they were
always posing in heroic attitudes. If they lived and moved in
family, social, and club life, as we understand it, the gloom of
their companionship accounts for the enjoyment which their
contemporaries took in the three hours' sermons then common from
As we leave the period of Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, and
the Adamses, we find no humor in the next generation. The only
relief from the tedium of argument and exhaustless logic is found
in the savage sarcasm of John Randolph, which was neither wit
A witty illustration or an apt story will accomplish more than
columns of argument. The old-time audience demanded a speech
of not less than two hours' duration and expected three. The
audience of to-day grows restive after the first hour, and is
better pleased with forty minutes. It prefers epigrams to arguments
and humor to rhetoric. It is still true, however, that the press
presents to readers from a speaker who indulges in humor only
the funny part of his effort, and he is in serious danger of
receiving no credit for ability in the discussion of great questions,
no matter how conspicuous that ability may be. The question is
always presented to a frequent speaker whether he shall win the
applause of the audience and lose the flattering opinion of the
critics, or bore his audience and be complimented by readers
When I look back over sixty-five years on the platform in public
speaking, and the success of different methods before audiences,
political, literary, business, or a legislative committee, or a
legislature itself, and especially when I consider my own pleasure
in the efforts, the results and compensations have been far greater
than the attainment of any office. For, after all, a man might
be dull and a bore to himself and others for a lifetime and have
the reputation of being a serious thinker and a solid citizen,
and yet never reach the presidency.
It was always a delight to listen to George W. Curtis. He was
a finished orator of the classic type, but not of the Demosthenian
order. His fine personal appearance, his well-modulated and
far-reaching voice, and his refined manner at once won the favor
of his audience. He was a splendid type of the scholar in politics.
In preparing a speech he took as much pains as he did with a
volume which he was about to publish.
I accepted under great pressure the invitation to deliver the
oration at the unveiling of the Bartholdi Statue of Liberty in
New York harbor, because the time was so short, only a few days.
Mr. Curtis said to me afterwards: "I was very much surprised that
you accepted that invitation. I declined it because there was only
a month left before the unveiling. I invariably refuse an invitation
for an important address unless I can have three months. I take
one month to look up authorities and carefully prepare it and then
lay it on the shelf for a month. During that period, while you
are paying no attention to the matter, your mind is unconsciously
at work upon it. When you resume correcting your manuscript you
find that in many things about which you thought well you have
changed your mind. Leisurely corrections and additions will
perfect the address."
As my orations and speeches have always been the by-product of
spare evenings and Sundays taken from an intensely active and busy
life, if I had followed any of these examples my twelve volumes of
speeches would never have seen the light of day.
One of the greatest orators of his generation, and I might say of
ours, was Robert G. Ingersoll. I was privileged to meet
Colonel Ingersoll many times, and on several occasions to be
a speaker on the same platform. The zenith of his fame was reached
by his "plumed-knight" speech, nominating James G. Blaine for
president at the national Republican convention in 1876. It was
the testimony of all the delegates that if the vote could have
been taken immediately at the conclusion of the speech, Mr. Blaine
would have been elected.
Colonel Ingersoll carried off the oratorical honors that campaign
in a series of speeches, covering the whole country. I say a
series of speeches; he really had but one, which was the most
effective campaign address I ever heard, but which he delivered
over and over again, and every time with phenomenal success,
a success the like of which I have never known. He delivered it
to an immense audience in New York, and swept them off their feet.
He repeated this triumph the next day at an open-air meeting in
Wall Street, and again the next day at a great gathering in
New Jersey. The newspapers printed the speech in full every day
after its delivery, as if it had been a new and first utterance
of the great orator.
I spoke with him several times when he was one of the speakers
after an important dinner. It was a rare treat to hear him. The
effort apparently was impromptu, and that added to its effect upon
his auditors. That it was thoroughly prepared I found by hearing
it several times, always unchanged and always producing the same
He spoke one night at Cooper Institute at a celebration by the
colored people of Mr. Lincoln's proclamation emancipating them
from slavery. As usual he was master of the occasion and of his
audience. He was then delivering a series of addresses attacking
the Bible. His mind was full of that subject, and apparently he
could not help assailing the faith of the negroes by asking, if
there was a God of justice and mercy, why did he leave them so
long in slavery or permit them ever to be slaves.
To an emotional audience like the one before him it was a most
dangerous attack upon faith. I was so fond of the colonel and
such an intense admirer of him, I hated to controvert him, but
felt it was necessary to do so. The religious fervor which is so
intense with the colored people, made it comparatively easy to
restore their faith, if it had been weakened, and to bring them
to a recognition of the fact that their blessings had all come
Probably the most brilliant speaker of the period immediateIy
preceding the Civil War was Thomas Corwin, of Ohio. We have
on the platform in these times no speaker of his type. He had
remarkable influence whenever he participated in debate in the
House of Representatives. On the stump or hustings he would draw
audiences away from Henry Clay or any of the famous speakers of
the time. I sometimes wonder if our more experienced and more
generally educated audiences of to-day would be swayed by Corwin's
methods. He had to the highest degree every element of effective
speech. He could put his audience in tears or hilarious laughter,
or arouse.cheers. He told more stories and told them better than
any one else, and indulged freely in what is called Fourth of July
exaggeration. He would relieve a logical presentation which was
superb and unanswerable by a rhetorical flight of fancy, or by
infectious humor. Near the close of his life he spoke near
New York, and his great reputation drew to the meeting the
representatives of the metropolitan press. He swept the audience
off their feet, but the comment of the journals was very critical
and unfavorable, both of the speech and the orator. It was an
illustration of what I have often met with: of a speech which was
exactly the right thing for the occasion and crowd, but lost its
effect in publication. Corwin's humor barred his path to great
office, and he saw many ordinary men advance ahead of him.
The most potent factor in the destruction of his enemies and
buttressing his own cause was his inimitable wit and humor. In
broad statesmanship, solid requirements, and effective eloquence,
he stood above the successful mediocrity of his time--the Buchanans
and the Polks, the Franklin Pierces and the Winfield Scotts--like
a star of the first magnitude above the Milky Way. But in later
years he thought the failure to reach the supreme recognition to
which he was entitled was due to his humor having created the
impression in the minds of his countrymen that he was not a serious
Wayne MacVeagh was a very interesting and original speaker. He
had a finished and cultured style and a very attractive delivery.
He was past master of sarcasm as well as of burning eloquence on
patriotic themes. When I was a freshman at Yale he was a senior.
I heard him very often at our debating society, the Linonian, where
he gave promise of his future success. His father-in-law was
Simon Cameron, secretary of war, and he was one of the party which
went with Mr. Lincoln to Gettysburg and heard Lincoln's famous
address. He told me that it did not produce much impression at
the time, and it was long after before the country woke up to its
surpassing excellence, and he did not believe the story still
current that Mr. Lincoln wrote it on an envelope while on the train
MacVeagh became one of the leaders of the American bar and was
at one time attorney-general of the United States. He was successful
as a diplomat as minister to Turkey and to Italy.
I heard him on many occasions and spoke with him on many after-dinner
platforms. As an after-dinner speaker he was always at his best
if some one attacked him, because he had a very quick temper. He
got off on me a witticism which had considerable vogue at the time.
When I was elected president of the New York Central Railroad,
the Yale Association of New York gave me a dinner. It was largely
attended by distinguished Yale graduates from different parts of
the country. MacVeagh was one of the speakers. In the course of
his speech he said: "I was alarmed when I found that our friend
Chauncey had been elected president of the most unpopular railroad
there is in the country. But rest assured, my friends, that he
will change the situation, and before his administration is closed
make it the most popular of our railroad corporations, because
he will bring the stock within the reach of the poorest citizen
of the land." The stock was then at the lowest point in its history
on account of its life-and-death fight with the West Shore Railroad,
and so, of course, the reverse of my friend MacVeagh's prediction
was not difficult.
One of the greatest and most remarkable orators of his time was
Henry Ward Beecher. I never met his equal in readiness and
versatility. His vitality was infectious. He was a big, healthy,
vigorous man with the physique of an athlete, and his intellectual
fire and vigor corresponded with his physical strength. There
seemed to be no limit to his ideas, anecdotes, illustrations, and
incidents. He had a fervid imagination and wonderful power of
assimilation and reproduction and the most observant of eyes. He
was drawing material constantly from the forests, the flowers,
the gardens, and the domestic animals in the fields and in the
house, and using them most effectively in his sermons and speeches.
An intimate friend of mine, a country doctor and great admirer of
Mr. Beecher, became a subscriber to the weekly paper in which was
printed his Sunday sermon, and carefully guarded a file of them
which he made. He not only wanted to read the sermons of his
favorite preacher, but he believed him to have infinite variety,
and was constantly examining the efforts of his idol to see if
he could not find an illustration, anecdote, or idea repeated.
Mr. Beecher seemed to be teeming with ideas all the time, almost
to the point of bursting. While most orators are relying upon
their libraries and their commonplace book, and their friends for
material, he apparently found more in every twenty-four hours than
he could use. His sermons every Sunday appeared in the press.
He lectured frequently; several times a week he delivered
after-dinner speeches, and during such intervals as he had he
made popular addresses, spoke at meetings on municipal and general
reform, and on patriotic occasions. One of the most effective,
and for the time one of the most eloquent addresses I ever heard
in my life was the one he delivered at the funeral of Horace Greeley.
When the sentiment in England in favor of the the South in our
Civil War seemed to be growing to a point where Great Britain
might recognize the Southern Confederacy, Mr. Lincoln asked
Mr. Beecher to go over and present the Union side. Those speeches
of Mr. Beecher, a stranger in a strange country, to hostile
audiences, were probably as extraordinary an evidence of oratorical
power as was ever known. He captured audiences, he overcame
the hostility of persistent disturbers of the meetings, and with
his ready wit overwhelmed the heckler.
At one of the great meetings, when the sentiment was rapidly
changing from hostility to favor, a man arose and asked Mr. Beecher:
"If you people of the North are so strong and your cause is so
good, why after all these years of fighting have you not licked
the South?" Mr. Beecher's instant and most audacious reply was:
"If the Southerners were Englishmen we would have licked them."
With the English love of fair play, the retort was accepted with cheers.
While other orators were preparing, he seemed to be seeking
occasions for talking and drawing from an overflowing reservoir.
Frequently he would spend an hour with a crowd of admirers, just
talking to them on any subject which might be uppermost in his
mind. I knew an authoress who was always present at these
gatherings, who took copious notes and reproduced them with great
fidelity. There were circles of Beecher worshippers in many towns
and in many States. This authoress used to come to New Haven
in my senior year at Yale, and in a circle of Beecher admirers,
which I was permitted to attend, would reproduce these informal
talks of Mr. Beecher. He was the most ready orator, and with his
almost feminine sympathies and emotional nature would add immensely
to his formal speech by ideas which would occur to him in the heat
of delivery, or with comment upon conversations which he had heard
on the way to church or meeting.
I happened to be on a train with him on an all-day journey, and
he never ceased talking in the most interesting and effective way,
and pouring out from his rich and inexhaustible stores with
remarkable lucidity and eloquence his views upon current topics,
as well as upon recent literature, art, and world movements.
Beecher's famous trial on charges made by Theodore Tilton against
him on relations with Tilton's wife engrossed the attention of the
world. The charge was a shock to the religious and moral sense
of countless millions of people. When the trial was over the
public was practically convinced of Mr. Beecher's innocence. The
jury, however, disagreed, a few holding out against him. The case
was never again brought to trial. The trial lasted six months.
One evening when I was in Peekskill I went from our old homestead
into the crowded part of the village, to be with old friends.
I saw there a large crowd and also the village military and fire
companies. I asked what it was all about, and was informed that
the whole town was going out to Mr. Beecher's house, which was
about one and one-half miles from the village, to join in a
demonstration for his vindication. I took step with one of the
companies to which I belonged when I was a boy, and marched out
with the crowd.
The president of the village and leading citizens, one after
another, mounted the platform, which was the piazza of Mr. Beecher's
house, and expressed their confidence in him and the confidence
of his neighbors, the villagers. Then Mr. Beecher said to me:
"You were born in this town and are known all over the country.
If you feel like saying something it would travel far." Of course,
I was very glad of the opportunity because I believed in him.
In the course of my speech I told a story which had wonderful
vogue. I said: "Mr. Lincoln told me of an experience he had in
his early practice when he was defending a man who had been
accused of a vicious assault upon a neighbor. There were no
witnesses, and under the laws of evidence at that time the accused
could not testify. So the complainant had it all his own way.
The only opportunity Mr. Lincoln had to help his client was to
break down the accuser on a cross-examination. Mr. Lincoln said
he saw that the accuser was a boastful and bumptious man, and so
asked him: 'How much ground was there over which you and my client
fought?' The witness answered proudly: 'Six acres, Mr. Lincoln.'
'Well,' said Lincoln, 'don't you think this was a mighty small
crop of fight to raise on such a large farm?' Mr. Lincoln said
the judge laughed and so did the district attorney and the jury,
and his client was acquitted."
The appositeness was in the six acres of ground of the Lincoln
trial and of the six months of the Beecher trial. As this was a
new story of Lincoln's, which had never been printed, and as it
related to the trial of the most famous of preachers on the worst
of charges that could be made against a preacher, the story was
printed all over the country, and from friends and consular agents
who sent me clippings I found was copied in almost every country
in the world.
Mr. Beecher was one of the few preachers who was both most effective
in the pulpit and, if possible, more eloquent upon the platform.
When there was a moral issue involved he would address political
audiences. In one campaign his speeches were more widely printed
than those of any of the senators, members of the House, or
governors who spoke. I remember one illustration of his about
his dog, Noble, barking for hours at the hole from which a squirrel
had departed, and was enjoying the music sitting calmly in the
crotch of a tree. The illustration caught the fancy of the country
and turned the laugh upon the opposition.
Hugh J. Hastings, at one time editor and proprietor of the
Albany Knickerbocker, and subsequently of the New York Commercial
Advertiser, was full of valuable reminiscences. He began life
in journalism as a very young man under Thurlow Weed. This
association made him a Whig. Very few Irishmen belonged to that
party. Hastings was a born politician and organized an Irish Whig
club. He told me that he worshipped Daniel Webster.
Webster, he said, once stopped over at Albany while passing through
the State, and became a guest of one of Albany's leading citizens
and its most generous host and entertainer. The gentleman gave
in Webster's honor a large dinner at which were present all the
notables of the capital.
Hastings organized a procession which grew to enormous proportions
by the time it reached the residence where Mr. Webster was dining.
When the guests came out, it was evident, according to Hastings,
that they had been dining too well. This was not singular, because
then no dinner was perfect in Albany unless there were thirteen
courses and thirteen different kinds of wine, and the whole closed
up with the famous Regency rum, which had been secured by Albany
bon-vivants before the insurrection in the West Indies had stopped
its manufacture. There was a kick in it which, if there had been
no other brands preceding, was fatal to all except the strongest
heads. I tested its powers myself when I was in office in Albany
fifty-odd years ago.
Hastings said that when Webster began his speech he was as near
his idol as possible and stood right in front of him. When the
statesman made a gesture to emphasize a sentence he lost his hold
on the balustrade and pitched forward. The young Irishman was
equal to the occasion, and interposed an athletic arm, which
prevented Mr. Webster from falling, and held him until he had
finished his address. The fact that he could continue his address
under such conditions increased, if that was possible, the admiration
of young Hastings. Webster was one of the few men who, when drunk
all over, had a sober head.
The speech was very effective, not only to that audience, but,
as reported, all over the country. Hastings was sent for and
escorted to the dining-room, where the guests had reassembled.
Webster grasped him by the hand, and in his most Jovian way
exclaimed: "Young man, you prevented me from disgracing myself.
I thank you and will never forget you." Hastings reported his
feelings as such that if he had died that night he had received
of life all it had which was worth living for.
I do not know what were Mr. Webster's drinking habits, but the
popular reports in regard to them had a very injurious effect upon
young men and especially young lawyers. It was the universal
conversation that Webster was unable to do his best work and have
his mind at its highest efficiency except under the influence of
copious drafts of brandy. Many a young lawyer believing this
drank to excess, not because he loved alcohol, but because he
believed its use might make him a second Webster.
Having lived in that atmosphere, I tried the experiment myself.
Happily for me, I discovered how utterly false it is. I tried
the hard liquors, brandy, whiskey, and gin, and then the wines.
I found that all had a depressing and deadening effect upon the
mind, but that there was a certain exhilaration, though not a
healthy one, in champagne. I also discovered, and found the same
was true with every one else, that the mind works best and produces
the more satisfactory results without any alcohol whatever.
I doubt if any speaker, unless he has become dependent upon
stimulants, can use them before making an important effort without
having his mental machinery more or less clogged. I know it is
reported that Addison, whose English has been the model of succeeding
generations, in writing his best essays wore the carpet out while
walking between sentences from the sideboard where the brandy
was to his writing-table. But they had heroic constitutions and
iron-clad digestive apparatus in those times, which have not been
transmitted to their descendants.