Read THE SIXTH MILESTONE of T. De Witt Talmage As I Knew Him, free online book, by T. De Witt Talmage Mrs. T. De Witt Talmage, on ReadCentral.com.

1879-1881

In the spring of 1879 I made a Gospel tour of England, Ireland, and Scotland. On a previous visit I had given a series of private lectures, under the management of Major Pond, and I had been more or less criticised for the amount of money charged the people to hear me. As I had nothing whatever to do with the prices of tickets to my lectures, which went to the managers who arranged the tour, this was something beyond my control. My personal arrangement with Major Pond was for a certain fixed sum. They said in Europe that I charged too much to be heard, that as a preacher of the Gospel I should have been more moderate. If the management had been my own I should not have been so greedy.

Because of this recollection and the regret it gave me, I decided to make another tour at my own expense, and preach without price in all the places I had previously visited as a lecturer. It was the most exhausting, exciting, remarkable demonstration of religious enthusiasm I have ever witnessed. It was an evangelistic yearning that could not be repeated in another life-time.

The entire summer was a round of Gospel meetings, overflow meetings, open-air meetings, a succession of scenes of blessing. From the time I arrived in Liverpool, where that same night I addressed two large assemblages, till I got through after a monster gathering at Edinburgh, I missed but three Gospel appointments, and those because I was too tired to stand up. I preached ninety-eight times in ninety-three days.

With nothing but Gospel themes I confronted multitudes. A collection was always taken up at these gatherings for the benefit of local charities, feeble churches, orphan asylums and other institutions. My services were gratuitous.

It was the most wonderful summer of evangelical work I was ever privileged to enjoy. There must have been much praying for me and my welfare, or no mortal could have got through with the work. In every city I went to, messages were passed into my ears for families in America. The collection taken for the benefit of the Y.M.C.A. at Leeds was about $6,000. During this visit I preached in Scenery Chapel, London, in the pulpit where such consecrated souls as Rowland Hill and Newman Hall and James Sherman had preached. I visited the “Red Horse Hotel,” of Stratford-on-Avon, where the chair and table used by Washington Irving were as interesting to me as anything in Shakespeare’s cottage. The church where the poet is buried is over seven hundred years old.

The most interesting place around London to me is in Chelsea, where, on a narrow street, I entered the house of Thomas Carlyle. This great author was away from London at the time. Entering a narrow hall, on the left is the literary workshop, where some of the strongest thunderbolts of the world’s literature have been forged. In the room, which has two front windows shaded from the prying street by two little red calico curtains, is a lounge that looks as though it had been made by an author unaccustomed to saw or hammer. On the wall were a few woodcuts in plain frames or pinned on the wall. Here was a photograph of Carlyle, taken one day, as a member of his family told me, when he had a violent toothache and could attend to nothing else, and yet posterity regards it as a favourite picture. There are only three copies of this photograph in existence. One was given to Carlyle, the other was kept by the photographer, and the third belongs to me. In long rough shelves was the library of the renowned thinker. The books were well worn with reading. Many of them were books I never heard of. American literature was almost ignored; they were chiefly books written by Germans. There was an absence of theological books, excepting those of Thomas Chalmers, whose genius he worshipped. The carpets were old and worn and faded. He wished them to be so, as a perpetual protest against the world’s sham. It did not appeal to me as a place of inspiration for a writer.

I returned to America impressed with the over-crowding of the British Isles, and the unsettled regions of our own country.

“Tell the United States we want to send her five million population this year, and five million population next year,” said a prominent Englishman to me. I urged a mutual arrangement between the two governments, to people the West with these populations. Great Britain was the workshop of the world; we needed workers. The trouble in the United States at this time was that when there was one garment needed there were three people anxious to manufacture it, and five people anxious to sell it. We needed to evoke more harvests and fruits to feed the populations of the world, and more flax and wool for the clothing. The cities in England are so close together that there is a cloud from smokestacks the length and width of the island. The Canon of York Minster showed me how the stone of that great cathedral was crumbling under the chemical corrosion of the atmosphere, wafted from neighbouring factories.

America was not yet discovered then. Those who had gone West twenty years back, in 1859, were, in 1879, the leading men of Chicago, and Omaha, and Denver, and Minneapolis, and Dubuque. When I left, England was still suffering from the effects of the long-continued panic in America.

Brooklyn had improved; still, we were threatened with a tremendous influx of people. The new bridge at Fulton Ferry across the East River would soon be opened. It looked as though there was to be another bridge at South Ferry, and another at Peck Slip Ferry. Montauk Point was to be purchased by some enterprising Americans, and a railroad was to connect it with Brooklyn. Steamers from Europe were to find wharfage in some of the bays of Long Island, and the passage across the Atlantic reduced to six days! Passengers six days out of Queenstown would pass into Brooklyn. This was the Brooklyn to be, as was seen in its prospectus, its evolution in 1879-80.

Our local elections had resulted in a better local government. With the exception of an unsuccessful attempt by the Board of Canvassers to deprive Frederick A. Schroeder of his seat in the Senate, because some of the voters had left out the middle initial in his name in their ballots, all was better with us politically than it had been. To the credit of our local press, the two political rivals, the Brooklyn Eagle and the Times, united in their efforts to support Senator Schroeder’s claim.

There was one man in Brooklyn at this time who was much abused and caricatured for doing a great work Professor Bergh, the deliverer of dumb animals. He was constantly in the courts in defence of a lame horse or a stray cat. I supported and encouraged him. I always hoped that he would induce legislation that would give the poor car-horses of Brooklyn more oats, and fewer passengers to haul in one car. He was one of the first men to fight earnestly against vivisection which was a great work.

Just after we had settled down to a more comfortable and hopeful state of mind Mr. Thomas Kinsella, one of our prominent citizens, startled us by showing us, in a published interview, how little we had any right to feel that way. He told us that our Brooklyn debt was $17,000,000, with a tax area of only three million and a half acres. It was disturbing. But we had prospects, energies. We had to depend in this predicament upon the quickened prosperity of our property holders, upon future examiners to be scrupulous at the ballot box, on the increase of our population, which would help to carry our burdens, and on the revenue from our great bridge. These were local affairs of interest to us all, but in December, 1879, we had a more serious problem of our own to consider. This concerned the future of the new Tabernacle.

In consequence of perpetual and long-continued outrages committed by neighbouring clergymen against the peace of our church, the Board of Trustees of the Tabernacle addressed a letter to the congregation suggesting our withdrawal from the denomination. I regretted this, because I felt that the time would soon come when all denominations should be helpful to each other. There would be enough people in Brooklyn, I was sure, when all the churches could be crowded. I positively refused to believe the things that my fellow ministers said about me, or to notice them. I was perfectly satisfied with the Christian outlook of our church. I urged the same spirit of calm upon my church neighbours, by example and precept. It was a long while before they realised the value of this advice. In the spring of 1879 my friend Dr. Crosby, pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church at the corner of Clinton and Fulton Streets, was undergoing an ecclesiastical trial, and an enterprising newsboy invaded the steps of the church, as the most interested market for the sale of the last news about the trial. He was ignominiously pushed off the church steps by the church officers. I was indignant about it. (I saw it from a distance, as I was coming down the street.) I thought it was a row between Brooklyn ministers, however, and turned the corner to avoid such a shocking sight. My suspicions were not groundless, because there was even then anything but brotherly love between some of the churches there.

A synodical trial by the Synod of Long Island was finally held at Jamaica, L.I., to ascertain if there was not some way of inducing church harmony in Brooklyn. After several days at Jamaica, in which the ministers of Long Island took us ministers of Brooklyn across their knees and applied the ecclesiastical slipper, we were sent home with a benediction. A lot of us went down there looking hungry, and they sent us back all fed up. Even some of the church elders were hungry and came back to Brooklyn strengthened.

It looked for awhile after this as though all clerical antagonisms in Brooklyn would expire. I even foresaw a time coming when Brothers Speare, Van Dyke, Crosby and Talmage would sing Moody and Sankey hymns together out of the same hymn-book.

The year 1880 began with an outbreak in Maine, a sort of miniature revolution, caused by a political appointment of my friend Governor Garcelon contrary to the opinions of the people of his State. Garcelon I knew personally, and regarded him as a man of honour and pure political motives, whether he did his duty or not; whatever he did he believed was the right and conscientious thing to do. The election had gone against the Democrats. In a neat address Mr. Lincoln Robinson, Democrat, handed over the keys of New York State to Mr. Carroll, the Republican Governor. Antagonists though they had been at the ballot-box, the surrender was conducted with a dignity that I trust will always surround the gubernatorial chair of the State of New York, once graced by such men as DeWitt Clinton, Silas Wright, William H. Seward, and John A. Dix.

In January, 1880, Frank Leslie, the pioneer of pictorial journalism in America, died. I met him only once, when he took me through his immense establishment. I was impressed with him then, as a man of much elegance of manner and suavity of feeling. He was very much beloved by his employees, which, in those days of discord between capital and labour, was a distinction.

The arrival of Mr. Parnell in New York was an event of the period. We knew he was an orator, and we were anxious to hear him. There was some uncertainty as to whether he came to America to obtain bayonets to stick the English with, or whether he came for bread for the starving in Ireland. We did not understand the political problem between England and Ireland so well but we did understand the meaning of a loaf of bread. Mr. Parnell was welcome.

The failure of the harvest crops in Europe made the question of the hour at the beginning of 1880 bread. The grain speculator appeared, with his greedy web spun around the world. Europe was short 200,000,000 bushels of wheat. The American speculator cornered the market, stacked the warehouses, and demanded fifty cents a bushel. Europe was compelled to retaliate, by purchasing grain in Russia, British India, New Zealand, South America, and Australia. In one week the markets of the American North-west purchased over 15,000,000 bushels, of which only 4,000,000 bushels were exported. Meanwhile the cry of the world’s hunger grew louder, and the bolts on the grain cribs were locked tighter than ever. American finances could have been straightened out on this one product, except for the American speculator, who demanded more for it than it was worth. The United States had a surplus of 18,000,000 bushels of grain for export, in 1880. But the kings of the wheat market said to Europe, “Bow down before us, and starve.”

Suddenly we in America were surprised to learn that flour in London was two dollars cheaper a barrel than it was in New York. Our grain blockade of the world was reacting upon us. Lying idle at the wharves of New York and Brooklyn were 102 ships, 439 barques, 87 brigs, 178 schooners, and 47 steamers. Six or seven hundred of these vessels were waiting for cargoes. The gates of our harbour were closed in the grip of the grain gambler. The thrift of the speculator was the menace of our national prosperity. The octopus of speculative ugliness was growing to its full size, and threatened to smother us utterly. There was a “corner” on everything.

We were busy trying to pick out our next President. There was great agitation over the Republican candidates: Grant, Blaine, Cameron, Conkling, Sherman. Greatness in a man is sometimes a hindrance to the Presidency. Such was the case with Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, Thomas H. Benton, and William C. Preston. We were only on the edge of the whirlpool of a presidential election. In England the election storm was just beginning. The first thunderbolt was the sudden dissolution of Parliament by Lord Beaconsfield. The two mightiest men in England then were antagonists, Disraeli and Gladstone.

What a magnificent body of men are those Members of Parliament. They meet and go about without the ostentation of some of our men in Congress. Men of great position in England are born to it; they are not so afraid of losing it as our celebrated Republicans and Democrats. Even the man who comes up into political power from the masses in England is more likely to hold his position than if he had triumphed in American politics.

In the spring and summer of 1880 I took a long and exhaustive trip across our continent, and completely lost the common dread of emigration that was then being talked about. There was room enough for fifty new nations between Omaha and Cheyenne, room for more still between Cheyenne and Ogden, from Salt Lake City to Sacramento.

An unpretentious youth, Carey by name, whom I had known in Philadelphia, went West in ’67. I found him in Cheyenne a leading citizen. He had been District Attorney, then judge of one of the courts, owned a city block, a cattle ranch, and was worth about $500,000. There wasn’t room enough for him in Philadelphia. Senator Hill of Colorado told me, while in Denver, about a man who came out there from the East to be a miner. He began digging under a tree because it was shady. People passed by and laughed at him. He kept on digging. After a while he sent a waggon load of the dust to be assayed, and there was $9,000 worth of metal in it. He retired with a fortune.

A man with $3,000 and good health could have gone West in 1880, invested it in cattle, and made a fortune. San Francisco was only forty-five years old then, Denver thirty-five, Leadville sixteen, Kansas City thirty-five. They looked a hundred at least. Leadville was then a place of palatial hotels, elegant churches, boulevards and streets. The West was just aching to show how fast it could build cities. Leadville was the most lied about. It was reported that I explored Leadville till long after midnight, looking at its wickedness. I didn’t. All the exploring I did in Leadville was in about six minutes, from the wide open doors of the gambling houses on two of the main streets; but the next day it was telegraphed all over the United States. There were more telephones in Leadville in 1880 than in any other city in the United States, to its population. Some of the best people of Brooklyn and New York lived there. The newspaper correspondents lost money in the gambling houses there, and so they didn’t like Leadville, and told the world it was a bad place, which was a misrepresentation. It is a well known law of human nature that a man usually hates a place where he did not behave well. I found perfect order there, to my surprise. There was a vigilance committee in Leadville composed of bankers and merchants. It was their business to give a too cumbrous law a boost. The week before I got to Leadville this committee hanged two men. The next day eighty scoundrels took the hint and left Leadville. A great institution was the vigilance committee of those early Western days. They saved San Francisco, and Cheyenne, and Leadville. I wish they had been in Brooklyn when I was there. The West was not slow to assimilate the elegancies of life either. There were beautiful picture galleries in Omaha, and Denver, and Sacramento, and San Francisco. There was more elaboration and advancement of dress in the West than there was in the East in 1880. The cravats of the young men in Cheyenne were quite as surprising, and the young ladies of Cheyenne went down the street with the elbow wabble, then fashionable in New York. San Francisco was Chicago intensified, and yet then it was a mere boy of a city, living in a garden of Eden, called California. On my return came Mr. Garfield’s election. It was quietly and peaceably effected, but there followed that exposure of political outrages concerning his election, the Morey forgeries. I hoped then that this villainy would split the Republican and Democratic parties into new fields, that it would spilt the North and the South into a different sectional feeling. I hoped that there would be a complete upheaval, a renewed and cleaner political system as a consequence. But the reform movement is always slower than any other.

I remember the harsh things that were said in our denomination of Lucretia Mott, the quakeress, the reformer, the world-renowned woman preacher of the day. She was well nigh as old as the nation, eighty-eight years old, when she died. Her voice has never died in the plain meeting-houses of this country and England. I don’t know that she was always right, but she always meant to be right. In Philadelphia, where she preached, I lived among people for years who could not mention her name without tears of gratitude for what she had done for them. There was great opposition to her because she was the first woman preacher, but all who heard her speak knew she had a divine right of utterance.

In November, 1880, Disraeli’s great novel, “Endymion” was published by an American firm, Appleton & Co., a London publisher paying the author the largest cash price ever paid for a manuscript up to that time $50,000. Noah Webster made that much in royalties on his spelling book, but less on one of the greatest works given to the human race, his dictionary. There was a great literary impulse in American life, inspired by such American publishing houses as Appleton’s, the Harper Bros., the Dodds, the Randolphs, and the Scribners. It was the brightest moment in American literature; far brighter than the day Victor Hugo, in youth, long anxious to enter the French Academy, applied to Callard for his vote. He pretended never to have heard of him. “Will you accept a copy of my books?” asked Victor Hugo. “No thank you,” replied the other; “I never read new books.” Riley offered to sell his “Universal Philosophy” for $500. The offer was refused. Great and wise authors have often been without food and shelter. Sometimes governments helped them, as when President Pierce appointed Nathaniel Hawthorne to office, and Locke was made Commissioner of Appeals, and Steele State Commissioner of Stamps by the British Government. Oliver Goldsmith said: “I have been years struggling with a wretched being, with all that contempt which indigence brings with it, with all those strong passions which make contempt insupportable.” Mr. Payne, the author of “Home, Sweet Home,” had no home, and was inspired to the writing of his immortal song by a walk through the streets one slushy night, and hearing music and laughter inside a comfortable dwelling. The world-renowned Sheridan said: “Mrs. Sheridan and I were often obliged to keep writing for our daily shoulder of mutton; otherwise we should have had no dinner.” Mitford, while he was writing his most celebrated book, lived in the fields, making his bed of grass and nettles, while two-pennyworth of bread and cheese with an onion was his daily food. I know of no more refreshing reading than the books of William Hazlitt. I take down from my shelf one of his many volumes, and I know not when to stop reading. So fresh and yet so old! But through all the volumes there comes a melancholy, accounted for by the fact that he had an awful struggle for bread. On his dying couch he had a friend write for him the following letter to Francis Jeffrey:

“Dear Sir, I am at the last gasp. Please send me a hundred
pounds. Yours truly,

William Hazlitt.”

The money arrived the day after his death. Poor fellow! I wish he had during his lifetime some of the tens of thousands of dollars that have since been paid in purchase of his books. He said on one occasion to a friend: “I have carried a volcano in my bosom up and down Paternoster Row for a good two hours and a half. Can you lend me a shilling? I have been without food these two days.” My readers, to-day the struggle of a good many literary people goes on. To be editor of a newspaper as I have been, and see the number of unavailable manuscripts that come in, crying out for five dollars, or anything to appease hunger and pay rent and get fuel! Oh, it is heartbreaking! After you have given all the money you can spare you will come out of your editorial rooms crying.

Disraeli was seventy-five when “Endymion” was published. Disraeli’s “Endymion” came at a time when books in America were greater than they ever were before or have been since. A flood of magazines came afterwards, and swamped them. Before this time new books were rarely made. Rich men began to endow them. It was a glorious way of spending money. Men sometimes give their money away because they have to give it up anyhow. Such men rarely give it to book-building.

In January, 1881, Mr. George L. Seavey, a prominent Brooklyn man at that time, gave $50,000 to the library of the Historical Society of New York. Attending a reception one night in Brooklyn, I was shown his check, made out for that purpose. It was a great gift, one of the first given for the intellectual food of future bookworms.

Most of the rich men of this time were devoting their means to making Senators. The legislatures were manufacturing a new brand, and turning them out made to order. Many of us were surprised at how little timber, and what poor quality, was needed to make a Senator in 1881. The nation used to make them out of stout, tall oaks. Many of those new ones were made of willow, and others out of crooked sticks. In most cases the strong men defeated each other, and weak substitutes were put in. The forthcoming Congress was to be one of commonplace men. The strong men had to stay at home, and the accidents took their places in the government. Still there were leaders, North and South.

My old friend Senator Brown of Georgia was one of the leaders of the South. He spoke vehemently in Congress in the cause of education. Only a few months before he had given, out of his private purse, forty thousand dollars to a Baptist college. He was a man who talked and urged a hearty union of feeling between the North and the South. He always hoped to abolish sectional feeling by one grand movement for the financial, educational, and moral welfare of the Nation. It was my urgent wish that President Garfield should invite Senator Brown to a place in his Cabinet, although the Senator would probably have refused the honour, for there was no better place to serve the American people than in the American Senate.

During the first week in February, 1881, the world hovered over the death-bed of Thomas Carlyle. He was the great enemy of all sorts of cant, philosophical or religious. He was for half a century the great literary iconoclast. Daily bulletins of the sick-bed were published world-wide. There was no easy chair in his study, no soft divans. It was just a place to work, and to stay at work. I once saw a private letter, written by Carlyle to Thomas Chalmers. The first part of it was devoted to a eulogy of Chalmers, the latter part descriptive of his own religious doubts. He never wrote anything finer. It was beautiful, grand, glorious, melancholy.

Thomas Carlyle started with the idea that the intellect was all, the body nothing but an adjunct, an appendage. He would spur the intellect to costly energies, and send the body supperless to bed. After years of doubts and fears I learned that towards the end he returned to the simplicities of the Gospel.

While this great thinker of the whole of life was sinking into his last earthly sleep, the men in the parliament of his nation were squabbling about future ambitions. Thirty-five Irish members were forcibly ejected. Neither Beaconsfield nor Gladstone could solve the Irish question. Nor do I believe it will ever be solved to the satisfaction of Ireland. But a greater calamity than those came upon us; in the summer of this year President Garfield was assassinated in Washington.