Read CHAPTER I of The Last Leaf‚ Observations, free online book, by James Kendall Hosmer, on


I came to consciousness in the then small town of Buffalo in western New York, whither, in Andrew Jackson’s day, our household gods and goods were conveyed from Massachusetts for the most part by the Erie Canal, the dizzy rate of four miles an hour not taking away my baby breath. Speaking of men and affairs of state, as I shall do in this opening paper, I felt my earliest political thrill in 1840. I have a distinct vision, the small boy’s point of view being not much above the sidewalk, of the striding legs in long processions, of wide-open, clamorous mouths above, and over all of the flutter of tassels and banners. Then began my knowledge of log-cabins, coon-skins, and of the name hard cider, the thump of drums, the crash of brass-bands, cockades, and torch-lights. My powers as a singer, always modest, I first exercised on “For Tippecanoe and Tyler too,” which still obtrudes too obstinately upon my tympanum, though much fine harmony heard since in cathedrals and the high shrines of music is quite powerless now to make that organ vibrate. Four years later, my emerging voice did better justice to “Harry Clay of Old Kentucky,” and my early teens found me in an environment that quickened prematurely my interest in public affairs. My father, the pioneer apostle of an unpopular faith, ministered in a small church of brick faced with stone to a congregation which, though few in numbers, contained some remarkable people. Millard Fillmore and his partner, Nathan K. Hall, soon to be Postmaster-General, were of his fold, together with Hiram Barton, the city’s mayor, and other figures locally noteworthy. Fillmore was only an accidental President, dominated, no doubt, and dwarfed in the perspective by greater men, while the part he played in a great crisis brought upon him obloquy with many good people. “Say what you will about Fillmore,” said a fellow-totterer to me the other day, adjusting his “store” teeth for an emphatic declaration, “by signing the Fugitive Slave Bill he saved the country. That act postponed the Civil War ten years. Had it come in 1850, as it assuredly would but for that scratch of Fillmore’s pen, the Union would have gone by the board. The decade that followed greatly increased the relative strength of the North. A vast immigration poured in which almost universally came to stand for the Union. Moreover the expanding West, whose natural outlet until then had been down the Mississippi to the South, became now linked to the East by great lines of railroad, and West and East entered into such a new bond of sympathy that there was nothing for it, in a time of trial, but to stand together. As it was, it was only by the narrowest margin that the Union weathered the storm. Had it come ten years earlier, wreck would have been inevitable, and it is to Fillmore’s signature that we owe that blessed postponement.” As the old man spoke, I had a vision of the grave, troubled face of my father as he told us once of a talk he had just had with Mr. Fillmore. The relations of the pastor and the parishioner, always cordial, had become more than ever friendly through an incident creditable to both. Mr. Fillmore had good-naturedly offered my father a chaplaincy in the Navy, a post with a comfortable salary, which he might easily hold, taking now and then a pleasant sea-cruise with light duties, or indeed not leaving home at all, by occasional trips and visits to the one man-of-war which the Government maintained on the Great Lakes. To an impecunious minister, with a large family to educate, it was a tempting offer. But my father in those days was a peace-man, and he was also disinclined to nibble at the public crib while rendering no adequate service. He declined the appointment, a course much censured. “The fool parson, to let such a chance go!” Mr. Fillmore admired it and their friendship became heartier than ever. In the interview, my father had asked his friend to explain his course on the Fugitive Slave Law, an act involving suffering for so many, and no doubt took on a tone of remonstrance. He told us the President raised his hands in vehement appeal. He had only a choice between terrible evils to inflict suffering which he hoped might be temporary, or to precipitate an era of bloodshed with the destruction of the country as a probable result. He did not do evil that good might come, but of two imminent evils he had, as he believed, chosen the lesser.

Fillmore lives in my memory a stately, massive presence, with hair growing grey and kindly blue eyes looking down upon the little boy with a pleasant greeting. His wife was gentle and unassuming. His daughter Abby matured into much beauty and grace, and her sudden death, by cholera, in the bloom of young womanhood cast a shadow on the nation. They were homely folk, thrust up suddenly into high position, but it did not turn their heads. In their lives they were plainly sweet and honest. No taint of corruption attaches to Fillmore in either his private or public career. He was my father’s friend. I think he meant well, and am glad that our most authoritative historian of the period, Rhodes, can say that he discharged the duties of his high office “with ability and honour.”

When in February, 1861, Abraham Lincoln, on his way to Washington, arrived in Buffalo Saturday night and it became known he would spend Sunday, the town was alive with curiosity as to where he would go to church. Mr. Lincoln was Mr. Fillmore’s guest. They had known each other well in Congress Fillmore a veteran at the head of the Committee of Ways and Means, Lincoln then quite unknown, serving his only term. Both were Whigs of the old school, in close contact and I suppose not afterwards far apart. Lincoln was prepared to execute the Fugitive Slave Law, while Fillmore was devoted to the Union, and probably would have admitted at the end that Lincoln’s course throughout was good. My father’s church was looked on somewhat askance. “It’s lucky,” said a parishioner once, “that it has a stone face.” Would Lincoln go to the Unitarian church? Promptly at service-time Mr. Fillmore appeared with his guest, the two historic figures side by side in the pew. Two or three rows intervened between it and that in which sat my mother and our household. I beheld the scene only through the eyes of my kindred, for by that time I had flown the nest. But I may be pardoned for noting here an interesting spectacle. As they stood during the hymns, the contrast was picturesque. Both men had risen from the rudest conditions through much early hardship. Fillmore had been rocked in a sap-trough in a log-cabin scarcely better than Lincoln’s early shelter, and the two might perhaps have played an even match at splitting rails. Fillmore, however, strangely adaptive, had taken on a marked grace of manner, his fine stature and mien carrying a dignified courtliness which is said to have won him a handsome compliment from Queen Victoria a gentleman rotund, well-groomed, conspicuously elegant. Shoulder to shoulder with him rose the queer, raw-boned, ramshackle frame of the Illinoisan, draped in the artless handiwork of a prairie tailor, surmounted by the rugged, homely face. The service, which the new auditor followed reverently, being finished, the minister, leaving the pulpit, gave Lincoln God-speed and so he passed on to his greatness. My mother, sister, and brothers the youngest of whom before two years were gone was to fill a soldier’s grave stood close at hand.

I once saw Stephen A. Douglas, the man who was perhaps more closely associated than any other with the fame of Lincoln, for he was the human obstacle by overcoming whom Lincoln proved his fitness for the supreme place. Douglas was a man marvellously strong. Rhodes declares it would be hard to set bounds to his ability. I saw him in 1850, when he was yet on the threshold, just beginning to make upon the country an impress of power. Fillmore had recently, through Taylor’s death, become President, and was making his first visit to his home after his elevation, with members of his Cabinet and other conspicuous figures of his party. How Douglas came to be of the company I wonder, for he was an ardent Jacksonian Democrat, but there he was on the platform before the multitude, and I, a boy of sixteen, watched him curiously, for he was young as compared with the grey heads about him. His image, as he stood up to speak, is very clear to me even now a face strong-featured and ruddy with vigour beneath a massive forehead whose thatch had the blackness and luxuriance of youth. His trunk was disproportionately large, carried on legs sturdy enough but noticeably short. The wits used to describe him as the statesman “with coat-tails very near the ground.” It is worth while to remark on this physical peculiarity because it was the direct opposite of Lincoln’s configuration. He, while comparatively short-bodied, had, as all the world knows, an abnormal length of limb, a fact which I suppose will account for much of his ungainly manner. In an ordinary chair he was undoubtedly uncomfortable, and hence his familiar attitude with his feet on the table or over the mantelpiece. The two fought each other long and sternly on those memorable platforms in Illinois in 1858, and in their physique there must have been, as they stood side by side, a grotesque parody of their intellectual want of harmony. Douglas’s usual sobriquet was “the little giant,” and it fitted well a man of stalwart proportions oddly “sawed off.” His voice was vibrant and sonorous, his mien compelling. It was no great speech, a few sentences of compliment to the city and of good-natured banter of the political foes among whom he found himself; but it was ex pede Herculem, a leader red-blooded to the finger-tips. I treasure the memory of this brief touch into which I once came with Douglas for I have come to think more kindly of him as he has receded. Not a few will now admit that, taken generally, his doctrine of “squatter sovereignty” was right. Congress ought not to have power to fix a status for people of future generations. If a status so fixed becomes repugnant it will be repudiated, and rightfully. Douglas was certainly cool over the woes of the blacks; but he refused, it is said, to grow rich, when the opportunity offered, from the ownership of slaves or from the proceeds of their sale. His rally to the side of Lincoln at last was finely magnanimous and it was a pleasant scene, at the inauguration of March 4, 1861, when Douglas sat close by holding Lincoln’s hat. There was an interview between the two men behind closed doors, on the night the news of Sumter came, of which one would like to have a report. Lincoln came out from it to issue, through the Associated Press, his call for troops, and Douglas to send by the same channel the appeal to his followers to stand by the Government. What could the administration have done without the faithful arms and hearts of the War Democrats? And what other voice but that of Douglas could have rallied them to its support? Had he lived it seems inevitable that the two so long rivals would have been close friends that Douglas would have been in Lincoln’s Cabinet, perhaps in Stanton’s place. This, however, is not a memory but a might-have-been, and those are barred out in this Last Leaf.

Daniel Webster came home to die in 1852. He was plainly failing fast, but the State for which he stood hoped for the best, and arranged that he should speak, as so often before, in Faneuil Hall. As I walked in from Harvard College, over the long “caterpillar bridge” through Cambridge Street and Dock Square, my freshman mind was greatly perplexed. My mother’s family were perfervid Abolitionists, accepting the extremest utterances of Garrison and Wendell Phillips. I was now in that environment, and felt strong impress from the power and sincerity of the anti-slavery leaders. Fillmore and his Postmaster-General, N.K. Hall, were old family friends. We children had chummed with their children. Their kindly, honest faces were among the best known to us in the circle of our elders. I had learned to respect no men more. I was about to behold Webster, Fillmore’s chief secretary and counsellor. On the one hand he was much denounced, on the other adored, in each case with fiery vehemence, and in my little world the contrasting passions were wildly ablaze. In the mass that crowded Faneuil Hall we waited long, an interval partly filled by the eccentric and eloquent Father Taylor, the seamen’s preacher, whom the crowd espied in the gallery and summoned clamorously. My mood was serious, and it jarred upon me when a classmate, building on current rumours, speculated irreverently as to the probable contents of the pitcher on Mr. Webster’s desk. He came at last, tumultuously accompanied and received, and advanced to the front, his large frame, if I remember right, dressed in the blue coat with brass buttons and buff vest usual to him on public occasions, which hung loosely about the attenuated limbs and body. The face had all the majesty I expected, the dome above, the deep eyes looking from the caverns, the strong nose and chin, but it was the front of a dying lion. His colour was heavily sallow, and he walked with a slow, uncertain step. His low, deep intonations conveyed a solemn suggestion of the sepulchre. His speech was brief, a recognition of the honour shown him, an expression of his belief that the policy he had advocated and followed was necessary to the country’s preservation. Then he passed out to Marshfield and the death-bed. What he said was not much, but it made a strange impression of power, and here I am minded to tell an ancient story. Sixty years ago, when I was ensconced in my smug youth, and could “sit and grin,” like young Dr. Holmes, at the queernesses of the last leaves of those days, I heard a totterer whose ground was the early decades of the last century, chirp as follows:

“This Daniel Webster of yours! Why, I can remember when he had a hard push to have his ability acknowledged. We used to aver that he never said anything, and that it was only his big way that carried the crowd. I have in mind an old-time report of one of his deliverances: ’Mr. Chairman (applause), I did not graduate at this university (greater applause), at this college (tumultuous applause), I graduated at another college (wild cheering with hats thrown in the air), I graduated at a college of my native State (convulsions of enthusiasm, during which the police spread mattresses to catch those who leaped from the windows).’”

That day in Faneuil Hall I felt his “big way” and it overpowered, though the sentences were really few and commonplace. What must he have been in his prime! What sentences in the whole history of oratory have more swayed men than those he uttered! I recall that in 1861 we young men of the North did not much argue the question of the right of secession. The Constitution was obscure about it, and one easily became befogged if he sought to weigh the right and the wrong of it. But Webster had replied to Hayne. Those were the days when schoolboys “spoke pieces,” and in thousands of schoolhouses the favourite piece was his matchless peroration. From its opening, “When my eyes shall be turned to behold for the last time the sun in the heavens,” to the final outburst, “Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!” it was all as familiar to us as the sentences of the Lord’s Prayer, and scarcely less consecrated. No logical unravelling of the tangle, but that burning expression of devotion to the Union, lay behind the enthusiasm with which we sprang to arms. The ghost of Webster hovered in the battle-smoke, and it was his call more than any other that rallied and kept us at the firing-line.

I think my mother told me once that on the canal-boat as we went West in the thirties, we had Webster for a time as a fellow-passenger, who good-naturedly patted the heads of the two little boys who then made up her brood. I wish I could be sure that the hand of Webster had once rested on my head. His early utterances as to slavery are warm with humane feeling. I have come to feel that his humanity did not cool, but he grew into the belief that agitation at the time would make sure the destruction of the country, in his eyes the supreme calamity. The injustice, hoary from antiquity, not recognised as injustice until within a generation or two, might wait a generation or two longer before we dealt with it. Let the evil be endured a while that the greater evil might not come. I neither defend nor denounce him. I am now only remembering; and what a stately and solemn image it is to remember!

William H. Seward, unlike Webster, had the handicap of an unimpressive exterior, nor had his voice the profound and conquering note which is so potent an ally of the mind in subduing men. I heard Seward’s oration at Plymouth in 1855, a worthy effort which may be read in his works, but I do better here to pick up only the straws, not meddling with the heavy-garnered wheat. I recall an inconspicuous figure, of ordinary stature, and a face whose marked feature was the large nose (Emerson called it “corvine"), but that, as some one has said, is the hook which nature makes salient in the case of men whom fortune is to drag forward into leadership. He spoke in the pulpit of my grandfather, who at the time had been for nearly sixty years minister of the old Pilgrim parish. From that coign of vantage, my faithful grandsire had no doubt smoked out many a sinner, and had not been sparing of the due polemic fulminations in times of controversy. The old theology, too, had undergone at his hands faithful fumigation to make it sanitary for the modern generations. From one kind of smoke, however, that venerable pulpit had been free until the hour of Seward’s arrival. It arched my eyebrows well when I saw him at the end of his address light a cigar in the very shrine, a burnt-offering, in my good grandfather’s eyes certainly, more fitting for altars satanic. My grandfather promptly called him down, great man though he was, a rub which the statesman received from the white-haired minister, good-naturedly postponing his smoke. But Seward rode rough-shod too often over conventions, and sometimes over real proprieties. In an over-convivial frame once, his tongue, loosened by champagne, nearly wagged us into international complications, and there is a war-time anecdote, which I have never seen in print and I believe is unhackneyed, which casts a light. A general of the army, talking with Lincoln and the Cabinet, did not spare his oaths. “What church do you attend?” interposed the President at last, stroking his chin in his innocent way. Confused at an inquiry so foreign to the topic under discussion, the soldier replied he did not attend much of any church himself, but his folks were Methodists. “How odd!” said. Lincoln, “I thought you were an Episcopalian. You swear just like Seward, and Seward is an Episcopalian.”

But I should be sorry to believe there was any trouble with Seward but a surface blemish. Though in ’61 he advocated a foreign war as a means for bringing together North and South, and desired to shelve practically Lincoln while he himself stood at the front to manage the turmoil, he made no more mistakes than statesmen in general. He had been powerful for good before the war, and during its course, with what virile stiffness of the upper lip did he face and foil the frowning foreign world! He had the insight and candour to do full justice at last to Lincoln, whom at first he depreciated. Then the purchase of Alaska! Writing as I do on the western coast I am perhaps affected by the glamour of that marvellous land. When news of the bargain came in the seventies, the scorners sang:

“Hear it all ye polar bears,
Waltz around the pole in pairs.
All ye icebergs make salaam,
You belong to Uncle Sam.
Lo, upon the snow too plain
Falls his dark tobacco stain.”

We thought that very funny and very apt, but now! I am glad I have his image vivid, in the pulpit beside my grandfather scratching a match for a too careless cigar. Between smokes he had done, and was still to do, some fine things.

In those days, Edward Everett and Robert C. Winthrop were often under my immature gaze. Men much alike in views, endowments, and accomplishments, they had played out their parts in public life and had been consigned to their Boston shelf. In the perspective they are statuettes rather than statues, of Parian spotlessness, ribboned and gilt-edged through an elegant culture, well appointed according to the best taste, companion Sèvres pieces, highly ornamental, and effectually shelved. By the side of the robust protagonists of those stormy years they stand as figurines, not figures, and yet it was rather through their fate than through their fault perhaps that they are what they are in our Pantheon. They were not at all without virile quality. Everett bore himself well in some rough Senatorial debates, and Winthrop, as Speaker of the House at Washington, was in stormy times an able and respected officer. But coarse contacts jarred upon their refinement; and when, like the public men in general who saw in postponement of the slavery agitation the wiser course, they were retired from the front, it is easy to see why the world judged them as it did. Everett’s son, Mr. Sidney Everett, at one time Assistant Secretary of State, was my classmate, and honoured me once with a request to edit his father’s works. I declined the task, but not from the feeling that the task was not worth doing. Everett had the idea that the armed rush of the North and South against each other might be stayed even at the last, by reviving in them the veneration for Washington, a sentiment shared by both. The delivery of his oration on Washington as a means to that end was well meant, but pathetic in its complete futility to accomplish such a purpose. So small a spill of oil upon a sea so raging! He was a master of beautiful periods, and I desire here to record my testimony that he also possessed a power for off-hand speech. The tradition is that his utterances were all elaborately studied, down to the gestures and the play of the features. I have heard him talk on the spur of the moment, starting out from an incident close at hand and touching effectively upon circumstances that arose as he proceeded.

Of the two men, often seen side by side, so similar in tastes, education, and character, both for the same cause ostracised from public life by their common wealth, a repugnance to reform which scouted all counting of costs, Winthrop impressed me in my young days as being the abler. His public career closed early, but he had time to show he could be vigorous and finely eloquent. I remember him most vividly as I saw him presiding at a Commencement dinner, a function which he discharged with extraordinary felicity. He had an alertness, as he stood lithe and graceful, derived perhaps from his strain of Huguenot blood. His wit was excelling, his learning comprehensive and well in hand. He was no more weighed down by his erudition than was David by his sling. Encomium, challenge, repartee, all were quick and happy, and from time to time in soberer vein he passed over without shock into befitting dignity. I have sat at many a banquet, but for me that ruling of the feast by Winthrop is the masterpiece in that kind. He lived long after retiring from politics, the main stay of causes charitable, educational, and for civic betterment. My memory is enriched by the image of him which it holds.

Sixty years ago, one met, under the elms of the streets of Cambridge, two men who plainly were close friends: one of moderate height, well groomed in those days almost to the point of being dapper, very courteous, bowing low to every student he met, Henry W. Longfellow. Of him I shall have something to say later on. The other was a man of unusual stature and stalwart frame, with a face and head of marked power. His rich brown hair lay in heavy locks; the features were patrician. He would have been handsome but for an hauteur about the eyes not quite agreeable. His presence was commanding, not genial. It was Charles Sumner.

I often encountered the two men in those days, receiving regularly the poet’s sunny recognition and the statesman’s rather unsympathetic stare. Both men were overwhelmingly famous, but, touched simultaneously by warmth and frost, I, a shy youngster, could keep my balance in their presence. Sumner in those years was the especial bête noire of the South and the conservative North, and the idol of the radicals at once the most banned and the most blessed of men. I had, besides, a personal reason for looking upon him with interest. He was a man with whom my father had once had a sharp difference, and I wondered, as I watched the stride of the stately Senator down the street, if he remembered, as my father did, that difference of twenty-five years before.

My father, in the late twenties a divinity student at Harvard, was a proctor, living in an entry of Stoughton Hall, for the good order of which he was expected to care. The only man he ever reported was Charles Sumner, and this was my father’s story.

Sumner, an undergraduate, though still a boy, had nearly attained his full stature and weight. He was athletic in his tastes, and given to riding the velocipede of those days, a heavy, bonebreaking machine, moved not by pedals but by thrusting the feet against the ground. This Sumner kept in his room, carrying it painfully up the stairs, and practised on it with the result, his size and energy being so unusual, that the building, solid as it was, was fairly shaken, to the detriment of plaster and woodwork, and the complete wreck of the proper quiet of the place. My father remonstrated mildly, but without effect. A second more emphatic remonstrance was still without effect, whereupon came an ultimatum. If the disturbance continued, the offender would be reported to the college authorities.

The bone-breaker crashed on and the stroke fell. Sumner was called up before President Kirkland and received a reprimand. He came from the faculty-room to the proctor’s apartment in a very boyish fit of tears, complaining between sobs that he was the victim of injustice, and upbraiding the proctor. My father was short with him; he had brought it upon himself, the penalty was only reasonable, and it would be manly for him to take it good-naturedly. Long afterward, when Sumner rose into great fame, my father remembered the incident perhaps too vividly.

My curiosity as to whether Mr. Sumner had any rankling in his heart from that old difference was at length gratified. The years passed, the assault in the Senate Chamber by Brooks roused the whole country; then came the time of slow recovery. Sumner had come back from the hands of Dr. Brown-Sequard at Paris to Boston, and was mustering strength to resume his great place. Calling one day on a friend in Somerset Street, I found a visitor in the parlour, a powerful man weighed down by physical disability, whom I recognised as the sufferer whose name at the moment was uppermost in millions of hearts.

As he heard my name in the introduction which followed my entrance, he said quickly, while shaking my hand, “I wonder if you are the son of the man who reported me in college.” The tone was not quite genial. The old difference was not quite effaced. I told him as sturdily as I could that I was the son of his old proctor and that I had often heard my father tell the story. He said plainly he thought it unnecessary and unfair, and that that was the only time since his childhood when he had received a formal censure. Long after, he received censure from the Massachusetts Legislature for an act greatly to his credit, the suggestion that the captured battle-flags should be returned to the Southern regiments from which they had been taken.

But it was only a momentary flash. He settled back into the easy-chair with invalid languor, and began to tell me good-naturedly about his old velocipede, describing its construction, and the feats he had been able to perform on it, clumsy though it was. He could keep up with a fast horse in riding into Boston, but at the cost of a good pair of shoes. The contrivance supported the weight of the body, which rolled forward on the wheels, leaving the legs free to speed the machine by alternate rapid kicks. From that he branched off into college athletics of his day in a pleasant fashion, and at the end of the not short interview I felt I had enjoyed a great privilege.

Another contact with Charles Sumner was a rather memorable one. We were in the second year of the Civil War. He was in his high place, Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Senate, a main pillar of the Northern cause. I meantime had been ordained as minister of a parish in the Connecticut valley, and was a zealous upholder of the cause of the Union. John A. Andrew was Governor of Massachusetts. I had come to know him through having preached in the church at Hingham with which he was connected. He was superintendent of the Sunday-school, and had introduced me once for an address to his charge. We were theologically in sympathy, but for me it was a closer bond that he was the great war Governor.

At an Amherst commencement we had talked about recruiting in the Connecticut valley, and he had impressed me much. Short in stature, square, well-set in frame, he had a strong head and face. His colour was white and pink almost like that of a boy, and the resolute blue eyes looked out from under an abundant mat of light curling hair that confirmed the impression he made of youth. Not many months before, he had been the target of much ridicule, being held over-anxious about a coming storm. He had bought three thousand overcoats for the militia, and otherwise busied himself to have soldiers ready. He was “our merry Andrew.” But the Massachusetts Sixth had been first on the ground at Washington, with many more close behind, and the Governor had had splendid vindication.

Early in September, 1862, I went to Boston with a deputation of selectmen from four towns of the Connecticut valley. They had an errand, and my function was, as an acquaintance of the Governor, to introduce them. Little we knew of what had just happened in Virginia, the dreadful second Bull Run campaign, with the driving in upon Washington of the routed Pope, and the pending invasion of Maryland. The despatches, while not concealing disappointment, told an over-flattering tale. More troops were wanted for a speedy finishing of the war, which we fondly believed was, in spite of all, nearing its end. Our errand was to ask that in a regiment about to be raised in two western counties the men might have the privilege of electing the officers, a pernicious practice which had been in vogue, and always done much harm. But in those days our eyes were not open.

Entering the Governor’s room in the State House with my farmer selectmen, I found it densely thronged. Among the civilians were many uniforms, and men of note in the field and out stood there in waiting. Charles Sumner presently entered the room, dominating the company by his commanding presence, that day apparently in full vigour, alert, forceful, with a step before which the crowd gave way, his masterfulness fully recognised and acknowledged. He took his seat with the air of a prince of the blood at the table, close at hand to the Chief Magistrate.

Naturally abashed, but feeling I was in for a task which must be pushed through, I made my way to the other elbow of the Governor, who, looking up from his documents, recognised me politely and asked what I wanted. I stated our case, that a deputation from Franklin and Hampshire counties desired the privilege for the men of the new regiment about to be raised to elect their own officers, and not be commanded by men whom they did not know.

“Where are your selectmen?” said Governor Andrew, rising and pushing back his chair with an energy which I thought ominous. My companions had taken up a modest position in a far corner. When I pointed them out, the Governor made no pause, but proceeded to pour upon them and me a torrent of impassioned words. He said that we were making trouble, that the country was in peril, and that while he was trying to send every available man to the front in condition to do effective work he was embarrassed at home by petty interference with his efforts. “I have at hand soldiers who have proved themselves brave in action, have been baptised in blood and fire. They are fit through character and experience to be leaders, and yet I cannot give them commissions because I am blocked by this small and unworthy spirit of hindrance.”

For some minutes the warm outburst went on. The white, beardless face flushed up under the curls, and his hands waved in rapid gesture. “A capital speech, your Excellency,” cried out Sumner, “a most capital speech!” and he led the way in a peal of applause in which the crowd in the chamber universally joined, and which must have rung across Beacon Street to the Common far away. My feeble finger had touched the button which brought this unexpected downpour, and for the moment I was unpleasantly in the limelight.

“Now introduce me to your selectmen,” said Governor Andrew, stepping to my side. I led the way to the corner to which the delegation had retreated, and presented my friends in turn. His manner changed. He was polite and friendly, and when, after a hand-shaking, he went back to his table, we felt we had not understood the situation and that our petition should have been withheld. For my part, I enlisted at once as a private and went into a strenuous campaign.

Sumner was intrepid, high-purposed, and accomplished, but what is the world saying now of his judgment? His recent friendly but discriminating biographer, Prof. George H. Haynes, declares that even in matters of taste he was at fault. The paintings he thought masterpieces, his gift to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, are for the most part consigned to the lumber-room. In sculpture his judgment was not better. As to literary art, his writing was ponderous and over-weighted with far-fetched allusion. The world felt horror at the attack of Brooks, but the whole literature of invective contains nothing more offensive than the language of Sumner which provoked it and which he lavished right and left upon opponents who were sometimes honourable. It was in the worst of taste.

In great affairs his service was certainly large. Perhaps he was at his highest in the settlement of the Trent affair, but his course in general in guiding our foreign relations was able and useful. He put his hand to much reconstruction of ideas and institutions. Often he made, but too often he marred. He suffered sadly from the lack of a sense of humour. “What does Lincoln mean?” he would blankly exclaim, impervious alike to the drollery and to the keen prod concealed within it. In his fancied superiority he sought to patronise and dominate the rude Illinoisian. The case is pathetic. The width and the depth of the chasm which separates the two men in the regard of the American people!