Gen. Lowrie hid an uncle who lived with him, a very eccentric, single-minded man, who was greatly distressed about the affair, and who became a messenger bent on making peace. He begged me to desist for Lowrie's sake, that I might not drive him to cover himself with shame, and bring lasting regret. He insisted that I knew nothing of the dangers which environed me; I would be secretly murdered, with personal indignities; would be tied to a log and set afloat on the Mississippi. I had no wish to court danger—shrank from the thought of brute force; but if I let this man escape, his power, now tottering, would be re-established; slavery triumphant in the great Northwest; Minnesota confirmed a democratic strong-hold, sending delegates of dough-faces to Congress to aid in the great conspiracy against the nation's life. So I told the messenger that I would continue to support Buchanan's administration, that I would pile my support upon it until it broke down under the weight and sunk into everlasting infamy.
The night after I had sent this, as my final answer to the offer of leniency, the Visiter was visited by three men in the "wee sma' hours, anent the twal," the press broken, some of the type thrown into the river, some scattered on the road, and this note left on the table:
"If you ever again attempt to publish a paper in St. Cloud, you yourself will be as summarily dealt with as your office has been.——VIGILANCE."
The morning brought intense excitement and the hush of a great fear. Men walked down to the bank of the great Mississippi, looked at the little wrecked office standing amid the old primeval forest, as if it were a great battle-ground, and the poor little type were the bodies of the valiant dead. They only spoke in whispers, and stood as if in expectation of some great event, until Judge Gregory arrived, and said, calmly:
"Gentlemen, this is an outrage which must be resented. The freedom of the press must be established if we do not want our city to become the center of a gang of rowdies who will drive all decent people away and cut off immigration. I move that we call a public meeting at the Stearns House this evening, to express the sentiments of the people at St. Cloud."
This motion was carried unanimously, but very quietly, and I said:
"Gentlemen, I will attend that meeting and give a history of this affair."
SPEAK IN PUBLIC.
At length the time had come when I could no longer skulk behind a printing press. That bulwark had been torn down, and now I must literally open my mouth for the dumb, or be one of those dogs spoken of in Scripture who would not bark. The resolve to speak at that meeting had come in an instant as a command not to be questioned, and I began to prepare. James McKelvey, a lawyer, and nephew of my husband, drew my will and I executed it, settled my business and wrote a statement of the Visiter trouble that it might live if I ceased to do so, then went to bed, sent for Miles Brown to come to my room, and saw him alone.
He was a Pennsylvanian, who had the reputation of being a dead shot, and had a pair of fine revolvers. He pledged himself solemnly to go with me and keep near me, and shoot me square through the brain, if there was no other way of preventing me falling alive into the hands of the mob. My mind was then at ease, and I slept until my mail was brought. In it was a letter from William M. Shinn, saying that without his knowledge, my husband had succeeded in having my one-third interest in the Swissvale estate sold at sheriff's sale, and had become the purchaser. Mr. Shinn added his opinion that the sale was fraudulent, and proposed entering suit to have it set aside; but I could attend to no suit and lost all hope of saving anything from my separate estate. Surely the hand of the Lord lay heavily upon me that day, but I never doubted that it was His hand. The Good Shepherd would lead me and feed me and I should know no want.
When it was time to go to the meeting, I was dressed by other hands than my own. I knew Harry and my brother-in-law, Henry Swisshelm, had organized for defense, and asked no questions, but went with them. Elizabeth carried her camphor bottle as coolly as if mobs and public meetings were things of every day life, while Mrs. Hyke, a New England woman, held my arm, saying:
"We'll have a nice time in the river together, for I am going in with you. They can't separate us."
As we approached the Stearns House, the crowd thickened and pressed upon us. Harry stopped and said:
"Gentlemen, stand back, if you please!"
The guard closed around me, every man with his hand on his revolver. There were oaths and growls, but the mob gave way, and made no further opposition to our entrance.
The meeting was called to order by Thomas Stearns, the owner of the house and for whom the county had been named, who with his brave wife had made every possible arrangement for the meeting. The large parlors were packed with women, and every other foot of space downstairs and even up, were filled with men, while around the house was a crowd. It was a wonder where all the people could have come from. A rostrum had been erected at the end of the parlor next the hall, but I had no sooner taken it than there was an ominous murmur outside, and it was discovered that my head made a tempting target for a shot through the front door, so the rostrum was moved out of range.
There was not much excitement until I named Gen. Lowrie and two other men as the persons who had destroyed the Visiter office. Then there was a perfect howl of oaths and cat-calls. Gen. Lowrie was on the ground himself, loading his forces outside. A rush was made, stones hurled against the house, pistols fired, and every woman sprang to her feet, but it was to hear and see, not shriek. Harry held the doorway into the hall; Henry that into the dining room. Brown had joined Harry, and I said in a low, concentrated voice:
He turned and pressed up to the rostrum.
"Don't fail me! Don't leave me! Remember!"
"I remember! Don't be afraid! I'll do it! But I'm going to do some other shooting first."
"Save two bullets for me!" I plead, "and shoot so that I can see you."
"I will, I will," but all the time he was looking to the door; Mrs. Hyke was clinging to me sobbing:
"We'll go together; no one can part us." The mob were pressed back and comparative quiet restored, and when I finished the reading of my address I began to extemporize. What I said seemed to be the right words at the right time. A hushed attention fell upon the audience, inside and out. Then there was applause inside, which called forth howls from the outside, and when I stepped from the platform, I was overwhelmed with congratulations, and more astonished than any one, to learn that I could speak in public.
T.H. Barrett, a young civil engineer, was chairman of the committee on resolutions, and brought in a set which thrilled the audience. They were a most indignant denunciation of the destruction of the office, an enthusiastic endorsement of the course of the Visiter, and a determination to re-establish it, under the sole control of its editor. They were passed singly by acclamation until the last, when I protested that they should take time to think—should consider if it were not better to get another editor. There could be no peace with me in the editorial chair, for I was an abolitionist and would light slavery and woman-whippers to the death, and after it. There was a universal response of "Good! Good! give it to 'em, and we'll stand by you."
This was the beginning of the final triumph of free speech, but the end was yet in the dim distance, and this I knew then as well as afterwards. T.H. Barrett, who carried that meeting, is the man who fought the last battle of the Rebellion at the head of his negro troops away down in Texas, ten days after Lee's surrender, and before that news had reached him, Brown was charged with cowardice, in having kept back among the women, and I had to explain on his account.
A FAMOUS VICTORY.
The day after the Stearns House meeting, I was thought to be dying. All that medical skill and loving hands could do was done to draw me from the dark valley into which I seemed to have passed; while those men who had planted themselves and their rifles between me and death by violence, came on tip-toe to know if I yet lived. When I was able to be out it was not thought safe for me to do so—not even to cross the street and sit on the high green bank which overlooked the river. Harry was constantly armed and on guard, and a pistol shot from his house, night or day, would have brought a score of armed men in a very short time.
A printing company had been formed to re-establish the Visiter. In it were forty good men and true, and they sent an agent to Chicago to buy press and type. The St. Cloud Visiter was to begin a new life as the mouthpiece of the Republican party, and I was no longer a scout, conducting a war on the only rational plan of Indian warfare. I begged my friends to stand abide and leave Lowrie and me to settle the trouble, saying to them:
"I cannot fight behind ramparts of friends. I must take the risks myself, must have an open field. Protect me from brute force and give me moral aid, but stand aside."
But they were full of enthusiasm, and would bear the brunt of battle. There were open threats of the destruction of the new press, and it was no time to quit the field. Of the first number of the resurrected Visiter, the St. Cloud Printing Co. was publisher, and I sole editor. I prepared the contents very carefully, that they might not give unnecessary offense, dropped the role of supporting Buchanan, and tried to make a strong Republican paper of the abolition type, and in the leader gave a history of the destruction of my office.
The paper gave great satisfaction to the publishers, who had not thought I could be so calm; but Lowrie threatened a libel suit for my history of that outrage, and I said to the printing company:
"You must get out of my way or I will withdraw."
At once they gave me a bill of sale for the press and material, and of the second number I was sole editor and proprietor, but it was too late. The libel suit was brought, damages laid at $10,000, and every lawyer in that upper country retained for the prosecution.
This was in the spring of '58. The two years previous the country had been devastated by grasshoppers, and no green thing had escaped. There was no old grain, the mass of people had been speculating in town lots, and such had been the demand for city charters, that a wag moved in legislature to reserve one-tenth of the land of Minnesota for agricultural purposes. The territorial had just been exchanged for a state government, which was not yet in working order. The capital of every man in the printing company was buried in corner lots, or lots which were not on a corner. The wolves and bears cared nothing for surveyor's stakes, and held possession of most of the cities, howling defiance at the march of civilization. The troops were still in Kansas establishing slavery, and we lived in a constant state of alarm. The men were organized for defense against Indians, and must do picket duty. All the money was in the hands of the enemy. Citizens had everything to buy and nothing to buy it with. Provisions were brought up from St. Paul by wagon, except when a boat could come from St. Anthony. Those men of the company who were especially marked, were men of families, and it is hard to starve children for the freedom of the press. The nearest court was St. Anthony. Any defense of that suit must be ruinous to those men, and I advised them to compromise.
A committee was appointed to meet six lawyers, and were in despair when they learned the ultimatum of the great Dictator. With the terms demanded, they had no inclination to comply, but sent J. Fowler to me with the contract they were required to sign.
This bound the company in a bond of $10,000 actual payment, that the St. Cloud Visiter should publish in its columns a card from Mr. Shepley, of which a copy was appended, and which stated that the destruction of the office was not for any political cause, but was solely on account of an attack made by its editor on the reputation of a lady. Also, that said Visiter should never again discuss or refer to the destruction of its office.
Fowler burned with indignation, and was much surprised when I returned the paper, saying that I would comply with these demands. He protested that I should not—that they had set out to defend the freedom of the press.
"Which you cannot do," I remarked. "You sign that paper just as you would hand your money to a robber who held a pistol to your head and demanded it. There is a point at which the bravest must yield, where resistance is madness, and you have reached this point. The press is mine, leave its freedom to me. Defend me from brute force and do your duty to your families."
He returned to the consultation room, where every one was surprised at my compliance. They had all given me credit for more pluck, but since I surrendered, the case was lost. The contract was signed, the bond executed, and everything made tight and fast as law could make it. The friends of free press were indignant, but bided their time. Stephen Miller, a nephew of my mother-in-law, and afterwards governor of Minnesota, was on a visit to Harrisburg during all this trouble, and when he returned, he flew into a towering rage over what he termed the cowardly backdown of the printing company, and published a card in the St. Paul papers, washing his hands of it.
But to the victors belong the spoils and glory, and now they made much of them. Ladies got out their silks, their jewels and their laces. There were sounds of revelry by night, where fair women and gallant men drew around the social board, on which sparkled the wine-cup and glimmered the yellow gold, to be taken up by the winner. Champagne was drunk in honor of the famous victory, hands were shaken over it, stray sheep were brought back into the true Democratic fold, and late opinions about presses and types were forgotten.
Though, among all the rejoicings, the Bar had the best of it. For once its members had not been like the blades of a pair of scissors; had not even seemed to cut each other, while only cutting that which came between. For once its members were a band of brothers, concentrated into one sharp, keen dagger, with which they had stabbed Freedom to the heart. That triumphant Bar stroked its bearded chin, and parted its silky mustache; hem'd its wisest hem; haw'd its most impressive haw.
"If Gen. Lowrie had ah, but ah, taken legal advice ah, in the first instance ah, all would have been well ah!"
They were the generals who had won this famous victory, and wore their laurels with a jaunty air, while a learned and distinguished divine from the center of the State, in a sermon, congratulated the Lord on having succeeded in "restoring peace to this community, lately torn by dissensions,"—and all was quiet on the Mississippi.
On its bank sat poor little I, looking out on its solemn march to the sea, thinking of Minnesota; sending a wail upon its bosom to meet and mingle with that borne by the Missouri from Kansas; thinking of a sad-faced slave, who landed with her babe in her arms here, just in front of my unfinished loft, performed the labor of a slave in this free Northern land, and embarked from this same landing to go to a Tennessee auction block, nobody saying to the master, "Why do ye this?" Against the power which thus trampled constitutional guarantees, congressional enactments and State rights in the dust, I seemed to stand alone, with my hands tied—stood in a body weighing just one hundred pounds, and kept in it by the most assiduous care. I was learning to set type, and as I picked the bits of lead from the labeled boxes, there ran the old tune of St. Thomas, carrying through my brain these words:
"Yea, though I walk in death's dark vale, Yet will I fear none ill."
Why did the heathen rage and kings vex themselves? God, even our God, should dash them together like potsherds. What an uneven fight it was—God and I against that little clique—against a world!
I rented the office to the boys, who at once gave me notice that I was no longer wanted in it. They issued a half-sheet Visiter, with "the Devil" as editor and proprietor. His salutatory informed his readers, that he was in full possession and was going to have a good time; had taught the Visiter to lie, and was going to tunnel the Mississippi. Those were bright boys, and they had a jolly week. Mr. Shepley's card appeared, as per agreement, and thus far the terms of release for the printing company complied with, and the contract with the Dictator filled. But what next? Had I actually given up the publication? Of course I had. Its finances were desperate, and what else could I do? What motive could I have for attempting to go on with it? Oh, what a famous victory. The next publication day passed and no Visiter. There was a dress parade of triumphant troops, and that most famous victory was bearing fruit.
Next day the St. Cloud Democrat made its appearance, and I was sole editor and proprietor. Into the first editorial column I copied verbatim, with a prominent heading, the article from the Visiter on which the libel suit was founded, and gave notice that I alone was pecuniarily responsible for all the injury that could possibly be done to the characters of all the men who might feel themselves aggrieved thereby. Of the late Visiter I had an obituary; gave a short sketch of its stormy life; how it was insulted, overborne, enslaved; that it could not live a slave, and died in its new chains.
It seems strange that those lawyers should have been so stupid, or should have accredited me with such amazing stupidity when they drew up that bond; but so it was, and the tables were completely turned. To sue me for libel was folly, for in St. Paul or St. Anthony I should have had the gratuitous services of the best legal talent in the state, and they and their case would have been ground into very small and dirty dust. No famous victory was ever before turned into a more total rout by a more simple ambush, and by it I won the clear field necessary to the continuance of my work.
I still had protection from physical violence, but had no fear of legal molestation, and after the next fall election, border ruffianism fell into such disrepute in St. Cloud that loaded guns seemed no longer necessary to sustain the freedom of the press.
STATE AND NATIONAL POLITICS.
When The St. Cloud Democrat began its career as the organ of the Republican party in Northern Minnesota, the central and southern portions of the State were fairly supplied with republican papers, the conductors all being more or less skillful in the art of plowing and sowing the political field; but with no very bright prospect of harvesting a victory. Under the Lowrie dictatorship of the North, it is difficult to see how the success of a Republican could have been made possible, any more than giving the electoral vote of Southern Republican States to the Republican candidate in 1880.
To overthrow that dictatorship was the work I had volunteered to do, and in doing it, my plan was to "plow deep," subsoil to the beam. Preachers held men accountable to God for their Sunday services, but it was my aim to urge the divine claim to obedience, all the rest of the week. I held that election day was of all others, the Lord's day. He instituted the first republic. All the training which Moses gave the Jews was to fit them for self-government, and at his death the choice of their rulers was left with them and they were commanded to
"Choose men, fearing God and hating covetousness, and set them to rule over you."
For no creed, no form of worship, no act of his life, is a man more directly responsible to God, than for casting his vote or the non-fulfillment of that duty. When the nominations were made for the second State election in 1859, Gen. Lowrie had lost ground so fast that he needed the indorsement of his party. This was given in his nomination for Lieut. Governor. The Republicans nominated Ignatius Donnelly, a fiery young orator, who took the stump, and was not deterred by any super-refinement from making the most of his opponent's reputation as the stealthy destroyer of a printing office, because he had made a bad bargain in buying its editor. He and the party which had made his methods its own by nominating him, were held up to the most unmerciful ridicule. The canvass seemed to turn on the indorsement or repudiation of border-ruffianism, press-breaking, woman-mobbing. My personnel had then become familiar to the people of the State, and the large man who instituted a mob to suppress a woman of my size, and then failed, was not a suitable leader for American men, even if they were Democrats.
The death-knell of Democratic rule in Minnesota was rung in that election. The whole Republican State ticket was elected, with Gov. Ramsey at its head, and he was the first Governor to tender troops to President Lincoln for the suppression of the Rebellion. The result was gratifying, although our own county, Stearns, was overwhelmingly Democratic, and must remain so, since the great mass of the people were Catholics.
However, the election of the State ticket was largely due to the personal popularity of Gov. Ramsey, and this could not be depended upon for a lasting arrangement, so I spent the winter following lecturing through the State, sowing seed for the coming presidential campaign. I never spoke in public during an election excitement, never advocated on the platform the claims of any particular man, but urged general principles.
Stephen Miller was our St. Cloud delegate to the Chicago Convention which nominated Mr. Lincoln, led the canvass in the State, as the most efficient speaker and was chairman of the Electoral College. His prominent position in the Border Ruffian war added largely to his popularity in the State, and once more that little printing office under the grand old trees was plunged into politics; this time into an election on which hung the destinies of the nation. How that election was carried on in other States I know not, but in Minnesota the banner of Republicanism and human freedom was borne aloft over a well fought field. There was not much surface work. Men struggled for the Right against the old despotism of Might, and planted their cause on foundations more enduring than Minnesota granite itself.
Yet, even then, the opposition of the Garrisonians was most persistent. There was a large anti-slavery element among the original settlers of Minnesota, but it was mostly of the Garrisonian or non-voting type, and had lain dormant under pro-slavery rule. To utilize this element at the polls was my special desire. The ground occupied by them was the one I had abandoned, i.e., the ground made by the Covenanters when the Constitution first appeared. They pronounced it "a covenant with death and an agreement with hell," and would not vote or hold office under it; would not take an oath to support it. So firmly had Garrison planted himself on the old Covenanter platform, that it is doubtful whether he labored harder for the overthrow of slavery or political anti-slavery; whether he more fiercely denounced slave-holders or men who voted against slave-holding. Once after a "flaming" denunciation of political abolitionists, some one said to him:
"Mr. Garrison, I am surprised at the ground you take! Do you not think James G. Birney and Gerrit Smith are anti-slavery?"
He hesitated, and replied:
"They have anti-slavery tendencies, I admit."
Now, James G. Birney, when a young man, fell heir to the third of an Alabama estate, and arranged with the other heirs to take the slaves as his portion. He took them all into a free State, emancipated them, and left himself without a dollar, but went to work and became the leader of political abolitionists, while Gerrit Smith devoted his splendid talents and immense wealth to the cause of the slave. When their mode of action was so reprehensible to Mr. Garrison, we may judge the strength of his opposition to that plan of action which resulted in the overthrow of slavery. His non-resistance covered ballots as well as bullets, and slavery, the creation of brute force and ballots, must not be attacked by any weapon, save moral suasion. So it was, that Garrisonianism, off the line of the underground railroad, was a rather harmless foe to slavery, and was often used by it to prevent the casting of votes which would endanger its power.
From the action of the slave power, it must by that time have been apparent to all, that adverse votes was what it most dreaded; but old-side Covenanters, Quakers, and Garrisonians could not cast these without soiling their hands by touching that bad Constitution. But that moral dilettanteism, which thinks first of its own hands, was not confined to non-voting abolitionists; for the "thorough goers" of the old Liberty Party, could not come down from their perch on platforms which embraced all the moralities, to work on one which only said to slavery "not another foot of territory."
Both these parties attacked me. The one argued that I, of necessity, endorsed slavery every where by recognizing the Constitution; the other that I must favor its existence where it then was, by working with the Republican party, which was only pledged to prevent its extension. To me, these positions seemed utterly untenable, their arguments preposterous, and I did my best to make this appear. I claimed the Constitution as anti-slavery, and taught the duty of overthrowing slavery by and through it, but no argument which I used did half the service of an illustration which came to me:
I had a little garden in which the weeds did grow, and little Bobbie Miller had a little broken hoe. When I went into my garden to cut the weeds away, I took up Bobbie's little hoe to help me in the fray. If that little hoe were wanting, I'd take a spoon or fork, or any other implement, but always keep at work. If any one would send me a broader, sharper hoe, I'd use it on those ugly weeds and cut more with one blow; but till I got a better hoe, I'd work away with Bobbie's. I'd ride one steady-going nag, and not a dozen hobbies; help any man or boy, or fiend to do what needed doing, and only stop when work came up which done would call for ruing.
This conceit struck popular fancy as plain argument could not have done, and the Republican party came to be called "Robbie Miller's Hoe "—an imperfect means of reaching a great end, and one that any one might use without becoming responsible for its imperfections.
During the heat of that Lincoln campaign, Galusha A. Grow, then Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, came to St. Cloud to speak, and found me ill with quinsy; but I went to the meeting. It was held in Wilson's Hall, which was on the second floor of a frame building, and was so packed that before he began fears were felt lest the floors should give way. But the speaker told the audience that the floor would "hold still" if they did; and any one who felt uneasy had better leave now. No one left, and for two hours and a half he held that packed assembly in close and silent attention. He was very popular on the frontier on account of his homestead bill, yet the hall was surrounded all the time he spoke by a howling Democratic mob, who hurled stones against the house, fired guns, shouted and yelled, trying to drown his voice. To make it more interesting and try to draw out the audience, they made a huge bonfire and burned me in effigy as—
"The mother of the Republican party."
The result of that campaign is known, for in it Minnesota was made so thoroughly Republican that the party must needs split, in order to got rid of its supremacy.
The St. Cloud Democrat found in orthodoxy a foe almost as powerful and persistent as slavery itself. In a local controversy about dancing, I recommended that amusement as the only substitute for lascivious plays, and this was eagerly seized upon by those who saw nothing wrong in wholesale concubinage of the South. A fierce attack was made on The Democrat by a zealous Baptist minister; to which I replied, when it was announced and proclaimed that on a certain Sabbath, at 10 A.M., this minister would answer The Democrat. At the appointed hour the house overflowed, and people crowded around the doors and windows, while Gen. Lowrie occupied a prominent seat in the audience.
It surely was an odd sight to see that preacher mount the stand, carrying an open copy of The Democrat, lay it down beside the Bible, and read verse about from the two documents. The sermon was as odd as the text. It disposed of me by the summary mode of denunciation, but also disposed of David, Solomon and Miriam at the same time. When I gave the discourse a careful Scriptural criticism, I carried the community, and was strengthened by the controversy. But another, more serious and general dispute was at hand.
When Theodore Parker died, the orthodox press from Maine to Georgia, handed him over to Satan to be tormented; and then my reputation for heresy reached its flood-tide.
Rev. John Renwick, one of our Covenanter martyrs, was my ideal of a Christian, and when he lay in the Edinburg prison under sentence of death, his weeping friends begged him to conform and save his life. They said to him:
"Dinna ye think that we, who ha' conformit may be saved?"
"Aye, aye. God forbid that I should limit his grace."
"An' dinna ye think, ye too could be saved and conform?"
"Oh, aye aye. The blood of Christ cleanseth fra all sin."
"Weel, what mair do ye want, than the salvation o' yer saul?"
"Mair, mickle mair! I want to honor my Master, and bear witness to the truth."
To satisfy this want, he died a felon's death. The central idea of that old hero-making Westminster theology was, that man's chief end is to glorify God first, and enjoy him forever when that is done. In all the religious training of my youth, I had never heard the term "seek salvation." We were to seek the privilege of serving God; yet I was willing to be dead-headed into heaven, with the rest of the Presbyterians.
A Protestant Episcopal convention had pointedly refused to advise members of that church to respect the marriage relation among their slaves, and so had dimmed the Elizabethian glory of a church which once stood for freedom so nobly that the winds and waves became her allies, and crowned her with victory. The General Assembly had laid the honor of its martyrs in the dust by endorsing human slavery; and I must be false to every conviction if I did not protest against calling that Christianity which held out crowns of glory to man-thieves and their abettors, and everlasting torments to those who had spent their lives glorifying God and bearing witness to the truth. My defense of Parker and unwillingness to have all Unitarians sent to the other side of the Great Gulf, won for me a prominent place among those whom the churches pronounced "Infidels."
But there came a time when "Providence" seemed to be on the side of the slave.
Rev. J. Calhoun was a highly-cultured gentleman, a Presbyterian clergyman, and one of those urbane men who add force and dignity to any opinion. His wife was Gen. Lowrie's only sister. He preached gratuitously in St. Cloud, and Border Ruffianism and Slavery gained respectability through their connection, when he and his wife made that fatal plunge off the bridge in St. Cloud—a plunge which sent a thrill of horror through the land. I accompanied my sympathetic, respectful obituary notice, with the statement that the costly cutter wrecked, and the valuable horse instantly killed, were both purchased with money obtained by the sale of a woman and her child, who had been held as slaves in Minnesota, in defiance of her law, and been taken by this popular divine to a Tennessee auction block.
The accident was entirely owing to the unprecedented and unaccountable behavior of that horse, and people shuddered with a new horror on being reminded of the price which had been paid for him—bodies and souls of two citizens and the honor of that free State.
The culture which the pale faces introduced into that land of the Dakotas was sometimes curious. The first sermon I heard there was preached in Rockville—a town-site on the Sauk, twelve miles from its confluence with the Mississippi—in a store-room of which the roof was not yet shingled. The only table in the town served as a pulpit; the red blankets from one wagon were converted into cushions for the front pews, which consisted of rough boards laid on trussles. There was only one hymn book, and after reading the hymn, the preacher tendered the book to any one who would lead the singing, but no one volunteered. My scruples about psalms seemed to vanish, so I went forward, took the book, lined out the hymn, and started a tune, which was readily taken up and sung by all present. We were well satisfied with what the day brought us, as we rode home past those wonderful granite rocks which spring up out of the prairie, looking like old hay-ricks in a meadow.
There were people in our frontier town who would have graced any society, and with the elasticity of true culture adapted themselves to all circumstances. At my residence, which adjoined the Democrat office, I held fortnightly receptions, at which dancing was the amusement, and coffee and sandwiches the refreshments. At one of these, I had the honor to entertain Gov. Ramsey, Lieut.-Gov. Donnelly, State Treas. Shaeffer, and a large delegation from St. Paul; but not having plates for seventy people, I substituted squares of white printing paper. When Gov. Ramsey received his, he turned it over, and said:
"What am I to do with this?"
"That is the ticket you are to vote," was the answer.
In our social life there was often a weird mingling of civilization and barbarism. Upon one occasion, a concert was given, in which the audience were in full dress, and all evening in the principal streets of St. Cloud a lot of Chippewas played foot-ball with the heads of some Sioux, with whom they had been at war that day.
In those days, brains and culture were found in shanties. The leaders of progress did not shrink from association with the rude forces of savages and mother nature.
St. Cloud was the advance post of that march of civilization by which the Northern Pacific railroad has since sought to reach the Sascatchewan, a territory yet to be made into five wheat-growing States as large as Illinois. All the Hudson Bay goods from Europe passed our doors, in wagons or on sleds, under the care of the Burbanks, the great mail carriers and express men of Minnesota, and once they brought a young lady who had come by express from Glasgow, Scotland, and been placed under the charge of their agent at New York, and whom they handed over to the officer she had come to marry on the shores of Hudson Bay. But their teams usually came east with little freight, as the furs sent to Europe came down in carts, not one of which had so much iron as a nail in them, and which came in long, creaking trains, drawn by oxen or Indian ponies.
In each train there was generally one gorgeous equipage—a cart painted blue, with a canvas cover, drawn by one large white ox in raw-hide harness. In this coach of state rode the lady of the train—who was generally a half-breed—on her way to do her shopping in St. Paul. Once the lady was a full-blooded Indian, and had her baby with her, neatly dressed and strapped to a board. A bandage across the forehead held the head in place, and every portion of the body was as secure as board and bandages could make them, except the arms from the elbow down, but no danger of the little fellow sucking his thumb. His lady mamma did not have to hold him, for he was stood up in a corner like a cane or umbrella, and seemed quite comfortable as well as content. She had traveled seven weeks, had come seventeen hundred miles to purchase some dresses and trinkets, and would no doubt be a profitable customer to St. Paul merchants, for the lady of the train was a person of wealth and authority, always the wife of the commander-in-chief, and her sentence of death might have been fatal to any man in it.
In these trains were always found Indians filling positions as useful laborers, for the English government never gave premiums for idleness and vagabondism among Indians, by feeding and clothing them without effort on their own part. Their dexterity in turning griddle cakes, by shaking the pan and giving it a jerk which sent the cake up into the air and brought it down square into the pan other side up, would have made Biddy's head whirl to see. The "Gov. Ramsey" was the first steamboat which ran above the falls of St. Anthony, and in the spring of '59 she was steamed and hawsered up the Sauk Rapids, and ran two hundred miles, until the falls of Pokegamy offered insurmountable barriers to further progress. It was thought impossible to get her down again, there was no business for her, and she lay useless until, the next winter, Anson Northup took out her machinery and drew it across on sleds to the Red River of the North, where it was built into the first steamboat which ever ran on that river.
Before starting on his expedition, Mr. Northup came to the Democrat office to leave an advertisement and ask me to appeal to the public for aid in provisions and feed to be furnished along the route. He was in a Buffalo suit, from his ears to his feet, and looked like a bale of furs. On his head he wore a fox skin cap with the nose lying on the two paws of the animal just between his eyes, the tail hanging down between his shoulders. He was a brave, strong man, and carried out his project, which to most people was wild.
Nothing seemed more important than the cultivation of health for the people, and to this I gave much earnest attention, often expressed in the form of badinage. There were so many young housekeepers that there was much need of teachers. I tried to get the New England women to stop feeding their families on dough—especially hot soda dough—and to substitute well-baked bread as a steady article of diet. In trying to wean them from cake, I told of a time when chaos reigned on earth, long before the days of the mastodons, but even then, New England women were up making cake, and would certainly be found at that business when the last trump sounded. But they bore with my "crotchets" very patiently, and even seemed to enjoy them.
The printer's case used to be one of the highways to editorial and congressional honors; but the little fellows of the craft invented a machine which goes over it like a "header" over a wheat-field and leaves a dead level of stalks, all minus the heads, so that no tall fellows are left to shame them by passing on from the "stick" to the tripod or speaker's mallet. Their great Union rolling-pin flattens them all out like pie-crust, and tramps are not overshadowed by the superiority of industrious men. But the leveling process makes impassable mountains and gorges in other walks of life—makes it necessary that a publisher with one hundred readers must pay as much for type-setting as he with a hundred thousand. The salary of editors and contributors may vary from nothing to ten thousand a year; but through all mutations of this life, the printer's wages must remain in statu quo. So the Union kills small papers, prevents competition in the newspaper business, builds up monster establishments, and keeps typos at the case forever and a day.
I knew when the Visiter started that it could not live and pay for type-setting the same price as paid by the New York Tribune, and the day the office became mine, I stated that fact to the printers, who took their hats and left. In '52, I had spent some part of every day for two weeks in a composing room, and with the knowledge then acquired, I, in '58 started the business of practical printer. I took a proof of my first stick, and lo, it read from right to left. I distributed that, but had to mark the stick that I might remember.
The first day I took two boys as apprentices. First, Wesley Miller, who had spent two months in a Harrisburg office, and knew something of the art, but did not like anything about it except working the press. Second, my nephew, William B. Mitchell, who was thirteen, knew nothing of types, but was a model of patient industry.
Our magnanimous printers hung around hotels, laughing at the absurdity of this amateur office. We might set type, but when it came to making and locking up a form, ha, ha, wouldn't there be sport? That handsome new type would all be a mess of pi, then somebody would be obliged to come to their terms or St. Cloud would be without a paper. It was their great opportunity to display their interest in the general welfare, and they embraced it to the full; but of the little I had learned in that short apprenticeship six years ago, I retained a clear conception of the principles of justification by works. I brought these to bear on those forms, made them up, locked them, and sent for Stephen Miller to carry them to the press, when each one lifted like a paving stone; but alas, alas, the columns read from right to left. I unlocked them, put the matter back in the galleys, made them up new, and we had the paper off on time.
From that time until the first of January, '63, I carried on the business of practical printer, issued a paper every week, did a large amount of job work, was city and county printer for half a dozen counties, did all the legal advertising, published the tax lists, and issued extras during the Indian massacres.
When, after Mr. Lincoln's election, the South made the North understand that her threats of disunion meant something more than "tin kettle thunder," there was little spirit of compromise among the Republicans and Douglas Democrats of Minnesota, who generally looked with impatience on the abject servility with which Northern men in Congress begged their Southern masters not to leave them, with no slaves to catch, no peculiar institution to guard.
I was in favor of not only permitting the Southern States to leave the Union, but of driving them out of it as we would drive tramps out of a drawing room. Put them out! and open every avenue for the escape of their slaves. But from that spirit of conciliation with which the North first met, secession, the change was sudden. The fire on Sumter lit an actual flame of freedom, and the people were ready then to wipe slavery from the whole face of the land. When Gen. Fremont issued his famous order confiscating the slaves of rebels in arms, I was in receipt of a large exchange list, and have never seen such unanimity on any subject. I think there were but two papers which offered an objection; but this land was not worthy to do a generous deed. So, President Lincoln rescinded that order, and the great rushing stream of popular enthusiasm was dammed, turned back to flow into the dismal swamp of constitutional quibbles and statutory inventions. There it lay, and bred reptiles and miasmas to sting and poison the guilty inhabitants of this great land; and never since have we been permitted to reach an enthusiasm in favor of any great principle; for history has no record of a great act so thoroughly divested of all greatness by the meanness of the motive, as is our "Act of Emancipation."
Long after the war was in progress, the old habit of yielding precedence to the South manifested itself so strongly as to sour and disgust the staunchest Republicans. The only two important military appointments given by Mr. Lincoln's administration to St. Cloud were given to two Southern Democrats, officeholders under Buchanan and supporters of Breckinridge, the Southern candidate for President in '60. In the autumn of '61, I asked a farmer to take out and post bills for a meeting to send delegates to the county convention. He had been an active worker in the campaign of '60, had never sought an office, and I was surprised when he declined so small a service, but his explanation was this:
"If the Democrats win the election, the Democrats will get the offices. If the Republicans win the election, the Democrats will get the offices, and I don't see but we may as well let them win the election."
When I explained that the more false others were to a party or principle, the more need there was for him to be true, he took the bills and managed the meeting; but running a Republican ticket under a Republican administration was not so easy as running the same ticket under Buchanan. Then men had hope and enthusiasm, but this was killed by a victory through which the enemy was made to triumph.
As Gov. Ramsey was the first to tender troops to President Lincoln for the suppression of the Rebellion, so the men of Minnesota were among the first to organize and drill. Stephen Miller raised a company in St. Cloud, with it joined the first regiment at Ft. Snelling, and was appointed Lieut. Col.
We went to Ft. Snelling to see our first regiment embark. It was a grand sight to see the men in red shirts and white Havelocks march down that rocky, winding way, going to their Southern graves, for very few of them ever returned.
More troops were called for, and two companies formed in St. Cloud. While they waited under marching orders, they and the citizens were aroused at two o'clock one morning by the cry from the east side of the river of, "Indians, Indians." A boat was sent over and brought a white-lipped messenger, with the news of the Sioux massacre at Ft. Ridgley.
My first public speech was the revelation of a talent hidden in a napkin, and I set about putting it to usury. I wrote a lecture—"Women and Politics"—as a reason for my anomalous position and a justification of those men who had endorsed my right to be a political leader, and gave sketches of women in sacred and profane history who had been so endorsed by brave and wise men.
The lecture gave an account of the wrongs heaped upon women by slavery, as a reason why women were then called upon for special activity, and I never failed to "bring down the house" by describing the scene in which the tall Kentuckian proposed to the tall Pennsylvanian that he should horsewhip an old woman one hundred and two times, to compel her to earn two hundred dollars with which his mightiness might purchase Havana cigars, gold chains, etc., or to elicit signs of shame by relating the fact of the United States government proposing to withdraw diplomatic relations with Austria for whipping Hungarian women for political offenses, while woman-whipping was the principal industry of our American chivalry.
I stated that men had sought to divide this world into two fields—religion and politics. In the first, they were content that their mothers and wives should dwell with them, but in the second, no kid slipper was ever to be set. Horace Mann had warned women to stand back, saying: "Politics is a stygian pool." I insisted that politics had reached this condition through the permit given to Satan to turn all the waste water of his mills into that pool; that this grant must be rescinded and the pool drained at all hazards. Indeed the emergency was such that even women might handle shovels.
Chicago had once been in a swamp, but the City Fathers had lifted it six feet. Politicians must "raise the grade," must lift their politics the height of a man, and make them a habitation for men, not reptiles. At this an audience would burst into uproarous applause.
As for the grand division, no surveyor could find the line; for no line was possible between religion and politics. The attempt to divide them is an assumption that there is some part of the universe in which the Lord is not law-giver. The Fathers of the Republic had explored and found a country they thought was outside the Divine jurisdiction, and called it Politics. Because old world government had bowed to popes and prelates, they would ignore Deity, and say to Omnipotence what Canute did to the sea: "Thus far shalt thou go but no further, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed." But God laughed them to scorn, and would certainly dash them to pieces. The government which they had set up like the golden image of Nebuchadnezzer, and demanded that all should bow before it, this same government was bound to sustain men in scourging women for chastity. Every man who voted a democratic ticket voted to put down as insurrection any attempt to stand between the cradle and its robber.
I never spoke of the St. Cloud trouble—there was too much else to talk about. I was seldom interrupted by anything but applause; but in Stillwater I was hissed for denouncing Buchanan's administration. I waited a moment, then lowered my voice, and said I had raised a good many goslings, and thought I had left them all in Pennsylvania, but found some had followed me, and was sorry to have no corn for them. There was no further interruption.
I was at that time the guest of a son of my Pittsburg friend, Judge McMillan, who led the singing in our church, and with whom I expect to sing "St. Thomas" in heaven. My host of that evening afterwards became U.S. Senator from Minnesota.
A considerable portion of three winters I traveled in Minnesota and lectured, one day riding thirty miles in an open cutter when the mercury was frozen and the wind blew almost a gale. Have crossed houseless prairies between midnight and morning, with only a stage driver, and I never encountered a neglect or a rudeness: but found gentlemen in red flannel shirts and their trowsers stuffed into the tops of their boots, who had no knowledge of grammar, and who would, I think, have sold their lives dearly in my defense.
Late in '60 or early in '61, I lectured in Mantorville, and was the guest of Mr. Bancroft, editor of the Express, when he handed me a copy of the New York Tribune, pointed to an item, and turned away. It was a four line announcement that he who had been my husband had obtained a divorce on the ground of desertion. I laid down the paper, looked at my hands, and thought:
"Once more you are mine. True, the proceeds of your twenty years of brick-making are back there in Egypt with your lost patrimony, but we are over the Red Sea, out in the free desert; no pursuit is possible, and if bread fails, God will send manna."
While I sat, Mrs. Bancroft came to me, caressed me, and said:
"Old things have passed away, and all things have become new."
OUT INTO THE WORLD AND HOME AGAIN.
In my first lecturing winter I spoke in the Hall of Representatives, St. Paul, to a large audience, and succeeded past all my hopes. I spoke there again in the winter of '61 and '62, on the anti-slavery question, and in a public hall on "Woman's Legal Disabilities." Both were very successful, and I was invited to give the latter lecture before the Senate, which I did. The hall was packed and the lecture received with profound attention, interrupted by hearty applause.
The Senate was in session, and Gen. Lowrie occupied his seat as a member. It was a great fall for him to tumble from his dictatorship to so small an honor. He sat and looked at me like one in a dream, and I could not but see that he was breaking. I hoped he would come up with others when they began to crowd around me, but he did not.
I had come to be the looked-at of all lookers; the talked-of of all talkers; was the guest of Geo. A. Nurse, the U.S. Attorney, dined with the Governor, and was praised by the press. I was dubbed the "Fanny Kemble of America," and reminded critics of the then greatest Shylock of the stage. A judge from Ohio said there was "not a man in the State who could have presented that case (Woman's Legal Disabilities) so well." Indeed, I was almost as popular as if I were about to be hanged!
A responsible Eastern lecture-agent offered me one hundred dollars each for three lectures, one in Milwaukee, one in Chicago and one in Cleveland. I wanted to accept, but was overruled by friends, who thought me too feeble to travel alone, and that I would make more by employing an agent. They selected a pious gentleman, whose name I have forgotten, and we left St. Paul at four o'clock one winter morning, in a prairie schooner on bob-sleds, to ride to La Crosse.
One of the passengers was a pompous Southerner, who kept boasting of the "buck niggers" he had sold and the "niggers" he had caught, and his delight in that sort of work. His talk was aimed at me, but he did not address me, and for hours I took no notice; then, after an unusual explosion, I said quietly:
"Can you remember, sir, just exactly how many niggers you have killed and eaten in your day?"
He looked out on the river and seemed to begin a calculation, but must have found the lists of his exploits too long for utterance, for he had spoken not another word when we reached La Crosse, where we took cars for Madison, Wisconsin.
We reached that beautiful city of lakes in time to meet news of the Ft. Donelson fatal victory; that victory made so much worse than a hundred defeats by the return to their masters of the slaves who remained in the fort and claimed the protection of our flag—the victory which converted the great loyal army of the North into a gang of slave-catchers. Alas, my native land! All hope for the preservation of the government died out in my heart. What could a just God want with such a people? What could he do but destroy them?
That victory was celebrated in Madison with appropriate ceremonies. Men got drunk and cursed "niggers and abolitionists," sat up all night in noisy orgies drinking health and success to him who was the synonym of American glory.
The excitement and sudden revulsion against abolitionists with the total incompetence of my agent, caused a financial failure of my lecture, but I made pleasant friendships with Gov. Harvey, Prof. Carr and their wives.
I started along the route we had come, and everywhere, in cars, hotels, men were hurrahing for Grant and cursing "niggers and abolitionists."
The hero had healed the breach between the loving brothers of the North and South, who were to rush into each others arms across the prostrate form of Liberty. Thank God for the madness of the South; for that sublime universal government which maketh "the wrath of man to praise him." Even in that hour of triumph for despotism, I did not doubt but Freedom would march on until no slave contaminated the earth; but before that march this degraded government must share the fate of that other Babylon, which once dealt "in slaves and souls of men."
My first small town lecture was another financial failure, and in the hall I paid and dismissed that highly respectable incubus—my agent.
That night I slept in a hotel, and going to a bed which had not been properly ventilated, wondered if it could be my duty to breast that storm of popular frenzy. Could I at any time be required to drink tea out of a coarse delf cup and sleep in such a bed? Luxuries I wanted none; but a china cup, silver spoon and soft blankets were necessaries of life. As I lay, uncertain always whether I slept, I seemed to sit on a projecting rock on the side of a precipice draped with poisonous vines. There was no spot on which I could place my feet, while out of holes, snakes hissed at me, and on ledges panthers glared at me with their green fiery eyes, and the tips of their tails wagging. Far below lay a lovely green valley, walled on both sides by these haunted precipitous banks, but stretching up and down until lost in vista. I knew that to the right was north—the direction of home; and to the left, south—the way out into the great unknown. If I could only reach that lovely valley and the clear stream which ran through it; but this was a vain longing, until there appeared in it a young man in a grey suit and soft broad-brimmed black felt hat. He came up the precipice toward me, and a way made itself before him, until he held up his hand, and said:
I saw his face, and knew it was Christ. After seeing that face, all the conceptions of all the artists are an offense. Moreover, the Christ of to-day, in the person of his follower, has often come to me in the garb of a working man, but never in priestly robes. He led me down the precipice without a word, pointed northward and said:
"Walk in the valley and you will be safe." He was gone, and I became conscious that I had been seeking popularity, money, and these were not for me; I must go home, but first I would try to repair the loss incurred by that agent. I lectured in a small town, a nucleus of a Seven Day Baptist settlement, and was the guest of the proprietor, who had built a great many concrete walls. Coming out into a heavy wind, I took acute inflammation of the lungs. My hostess gave me every attention; but I must go home for my symptoms were alarming, so took the train the next morning, with my chest in wet compresses, a viol of aconite in my pocket, and was better when by rail and schooner I reached the house of the good Samaritan, Judge Wilson, of Winona.
Here I was made whole, lectured in Winona and other towns, and got back to St. Paul with more money than when I left. I started for home one morning in a schooner. At one the next morning our craft settled down and refused to go farther. The snow was three feet deep; it had been raining steadily for twelve hours, and when the men got out to pry out the runners, they went down, down, far over their knees. The driver and express agent were booted for such occasions, but the two Germans were not. Myself, "these four and no more," were down in the book of fate for a struggle with inertia. It was muscle and mind against matter. To the muscle I contributed nothing, but might add something to the common stock of mind. The agent, and driver concluded that he should take a horse and go to the nearest house, two miles back, to get shovels to dig us out. I asked if there were fresh horses and men at the house.
"How far is it to St. Cloud?"
"Are there fresh horses and men there?"
"If you dig us out here, how long will it be before we go in again?" This they did not know.
"Then had not the driver better go to St. Cloud with both horses? The horse left here would be ruined standing in that slush."
"But, madam," said the agent, "if we do that we will have to leave you here all night."
"Well," I said, "I do not see how you are going to get rid of me."
So the driver started with the two horses on that dreadful journey; had I known how dreadful, I should have tried to keep him till morning. As he left, I made the Germans draw off their boots and pour out the water, rub their chilled feet and roll them up in a buffalo robe. The agent lay on his box, I cuddled in a corner, and we all went to sleep to the music of the patter of the soft rain on our canvas cover. At sunrise we were waked by a little army of men and horses and another schooner, into which we passed by bridge. We reached St. Cloud in time for breakfast, and were greeted by the news that General Lowrie had been sent home insane. He was confined in his own house, and his much envied young wife, with her two babies, had become an object of pity.
THE ARISTOCRACY OF THE WEST.
Before going to Minnesota, I had the common Cooper idea of the dignity and glory of the noble red man of the forest; and was especially impressed by his unexampled faithfulness to those pale-faces who had ever been so fortunate as to eat salt with him. In planning my hermitage, I had pictured the most amicable relations with those unsophisticated children of nature, who should never want for salt while there was a spoonful in my barrel. I should win them to friendships as I had done railroad laborers, by caring for their sick children, and aiding their wives. Indeed, I think the Indians formed a large part of the attractions of my cabin by the lakes; and it required considerable time and experience to bring me to any true knowledge of the situation, which was, and is, this:
Between the Indian and white settler, rages the world-old, world-wide war of hereditary land-ownership against those who beg their brother man for leave to live and toil. William Penn disclaimed the right of conquest as a land title, while he himself held an English estate based on that title, and while every acre of land on the globe was held by it. He could not recognize that title in English hands, but did in the hands of Indians, and while pretending to purchase of them a conquest title, perpetrated one of the greatest swindles on record since that by which Jacob won the birthright of his starving brother.
This Penn swindle has been so carefully cloaked that it has become the basis of our whole Indian policy, the legitimate parent of a system never equalled on earth for crime committed with the best intentions. It intends to be especially just, by holding that the Creator made North America for the exclusive use of savages, and that civilization can only exist here by sufferance of the proprietors. This sufferance it tries to purchase by engaging to support these proprietors in absolute idleness, from the proceeds of the toil they license, even as kings and other landed aristocrats are supported by the labor of their subjects and tenants.
As the successors of the tent-maker of Tarsus have for thirteen centuries been found on the side of aristocrats in every contest with plebians, so the piety of the East, controlled by men who live without labor, was and is on the side of the royal red man, who has a most royal contempt for plows, hoes and all other degrading implements.
The same community of interests which arrayed the mass of the clergy on the side of Southern slaveholders, arrayed that same clergy on the side of the Western slave holder, and against the men who seek, with plows and hoes, to get a living out of the ground. Under this arrangement we have the spectacle of a Christian people arrayed in open hostility to those who plant Christian churches, schools and libraries on the lair of the wolf; and in alliance with the savage who coolly unjoints the feet and hands of little children, puts them in his hunting pouch as evidence of his valor, and leaves the victim to die at leisure; of those who thrust Christian babies into ovens, and deliberately roast them to death; of those who bind infants, two by two, by one wrist, and throw them across a fence to die; of those who collect little children in groups and lock them up in a room, to wail out their little lives; of those who commit outrages on innocent men and women who the pen must forever refuse to record. The apology with which piety converts the crimes of its pets into virtues, is that its own agents have failed to carry out its own contract with its own friends.
The men and women who take their lives in their hands to lead the westward march of civilization, are held as foes by the main body of the army, who conspire with the enemy, and hand them over as scapegoats whose tortures and death are to appease divine wrath for the crimes which this same main body say it has itself committed against Indians.
No one pretends that Western settlers have injured Indians, but Eastern philanthropists, through the government they control, have, according to their own showing, been guilty of no end of frauds; and as they do not, and cannot, stop the stealing, they pay their debts to the noble red man by licensing him to outrage women, torture infants and burn homes. When gold is scarce in the East, they substitute scalps and furnish Indians with scalping-knives by the thousand, that they may collect their dues at their own convenience.
This may seem to-day a bitter partisan accusation, but it must be the calm verdict of history when this comes to be written by impartial pens.
Under the pretense that America belonged, in fee simple, and by special divine right, to that particular hoard of savages, who, by killing off some other hoard of savages, were in possession when Columbus first saw the Great West, the Eastern States, which had already secured their land by conquest, have become more implacable foes to civilization than the savages themselves.
The Quaker would form no alliance with Southern slave-holders. He recoiled from the sale of women and children in South Carolina, but covered with his gray mantle of charity the slave trade in Minnesota. When a settler refused to exchange his wife or daughter with an Indian for a pony, and that Indian massacred the whole family to repair his wrongs, his Quaker lawyer justified the act on the score of extreme provocation, and won triumphal acquittal from the jury of the world.
When the Sioux, after the Bull Run disaster, arose as the allies of the South, and butchered one thousand men, women and children in Minnesota, the Quakers and other good people flew to arms in their defense, and carried public sentiment in their favor. The agents of the Eastern people had delayed the payment of annuity three weeks, and then insulted Mr. Lo by tendering him one-half his money in government bonds, and for this great wrong the peaceable Quaker, the humanitarian Unitarian, the orthodox Congregationalist and Presbyterian, the enthusiastic Methodist and staid Baptist, felt it but right Mr. Lo should have his revenge.
Most Eastern Christians are opposed to polygamy in Utah, and Fourierism in France, but in Minnesota among Indians these institutions are sacred. They demanded that England should by law prohibit widow-burning and other heathen customs in India, but nothing so rude as statutes must interfere with the royal privileges of these Western landlords. If by gentle means Mr. Lo can be persuaded to stop taking all the wives he can get, extorting their labor by the cudgel, and selling them and their children at will, all well and good! Millions are expended on the persuading business, and prayer poured out like the rains in Noah's flood, without any perceptible effect; but still they keep on paying and praying, and carefully abstain from all means at all likely to accomplish the desired result. All the property of every tribe must be held in common, so that there can possibly be no incentive to industry and economy; but if the Indian refuse to be civilized on that plan, he must go on taking scalps and being excused, until extermination solve the problem.
Long before I saw an Indian on his native soil, the U.S. Government had spent millions in carrying out this Penn policy. For long years, Indians had sat like crows, watching the white farmers and artisans sent to teach them industry, and had grunted their honest contempt. They watched the potato planting, that they might pick out the seed for present use. They pulled down fences, and turned their ponies into the growing crops, used the rails for fire wood, burned mills and houses built for them, rolled barrels of flour up steep acclivities, started them down and shouted to see them leap and the flour spurt through the staves; knocked the heads out of other barrels, and let the ponies eat the flour; poured bags of corn on the ground when they wanted the bag, and in every way showed their contempt for the government, whose policy they believed to be the result of cowardice. Thousands of dollars' worth of agricultural machinery lay "rotting in the sun" while the noble red aristocrat played poker in the shade; his original contempt for labor intensified by his power to extract a living from laborers, through their fear of his scalping knife.
Hole-in-the-day, the Chippewa chief, had been educated by Baptist missionaries, and was a good English scholar, but would not condescend to speak to the government except through an interpreter. For him six hundred acres of land had been fenced, and a large frame cottage built and painted white. In this he lived with six wives, and a United States salary of two thousand a year and his traveling expenses. He dressed like a white man, dined with State officers in St. Paul, went to church with a lady on his arm, sat in a front pew, and was a highly distinguished gentleman of the scalping school.
THE INDIAN MASSACRE OF '62.
The Indians had been ugly from the first outbreak of the Rebellion, and Commissioner Dole, with Senator Wilkinson, had come out to pacify them. The party passed through St. Cloud, and had camped several miles west, when in the night there came up one of those sudden storms peculiar to this land. Their tents were whisked away like autumn leaves, and they left clinging to such productions of mother nature as were at hand, well rooted in her bosom, to avoid a witches' dance in the air. But it grew worse when the rain had covered the level ground six inches deep in water, and they must keep their heads above the surface.
They returned to St. Cloud in the morning in sorry plight, and the delay was one of the injuries to the poor Indians, and counted as sufficient justification for the subsequent massacre. The delay, however, saved their lives. The messenger who aroused the people of St. Cloud in the small hours was traveling post after this Dole commission, for whose safety there was much anxiety, but none for St. Cloud, since the Indians would not attack us while there were two companies of soldiers in town. True, they were unarmed, but surely arms would be sent and their marching orders rescinded. The outbreak was mysterious. It was of course in the interests of the South, and meant to prevent the troops leaving the State; but why had not the tribes struck together?
The answer was that after the massacre had been arranged in council, two Sioux visited a white family in which they had often been entertained, were drunk, and could not resist the impulse to butcher their entertainers. This precipitated the attack, for so soon as the news reached the tribe, they went to work to execute their bloody purpose.
Johnson, a converted Chippewa, hurried to inform us that his tribe with Hole-in-the-day in council had resolved to join the Sioux and were to have made St. Cloud their base of operations, but the Sioux had broken out before the arms and ammunition came, and these they were hourly expecting. On the same day a formal message came from Hole-in-the-day that Commissioner Dole must come to the reservation to confer with his young braves, who would await his arrival ten days, after which time their great chief declined to be responsible for them.
A runner arrived from Ft. Abercrombie, who had escaped by crawling through the grass, and reported the Fort besieged by a thousand savages, and quite unprepared for defense. There were several St. Cloud people in the Fort, and so far from expecting aid from it it must be relieved. The garrison at Ft. Ripley had not a man to spare for outside defense. People began to pour into St. Cloud with tales of horror to freeze the blood, and the worst reports were more than confirmed. The victorious Sioux had undisputed possession of the whole country west, southwest and northwest of us, up to within twelve miles of the city, and had left few people to tell tales. Our troops spent their time teaching women and children the use of firearms, and hoping for arms and orders to go to the relief of Abercrombie. There was no telegraph, and the last mail left no alternative but to start for Fort Snelling, with such short time to get there that every available man and horse must go to hurry them forward. They left in the afternoon, and that was a dreadful night. Many of the more timid women had gone east, but of those that remained some paced the streets, wringing their hands and sobbing out their fear and despair and sorrow for the husbands and brothers and sons taken from them at such a crisis.
When the troops left, we thought there were no more men in St. Cloud, but next morning found a dozen, counting the boys, who were organized to go out west to the rescue of settlers, and still there were some guards and pickets, and some who did nothing but find fault with everything any one else did.
Men and women spoke with stiffened lips and blanched faces. Families in the outskirts gathered to more central places, and there were forty-two women and children in my house the night after the troops left, and for every night for weeks. We kept large kettles of boiling water as one means of defense. I always had the watchword, and often at midnight I would go out to see that the pickets were on duty, and report to the women that all was well. Brother Harry was appointed General of State troops, succeeding Gen. Lowrie, and arms were sent to him for distribution, while women kept muskets by them and practiced daily. The office of my democratic contemporary was closed, and he fled to New England, while his assistant went with my only male assistant to rescue settlers. I had two young ladies in the office, one a graduate of a New York high school, and through all the excitement they kept at work as coolly as at any other time. We got out the paper regularly, and published many extras.
The history of the horrors and heroisms which reached us during the six weeks in which Ft. Abercrombie held out until relief came, would make a volume, and cannot he written here. The unimaginable tortures and indecencies inflicted on brave men and good women, are something for which the Christian supporters and excusers of the Sioux must yet account at the bar where sentimental sympathy with criminals is itself a crime; and where the wail of tortured infants will not be hushed by reckoning of bad beef and a deficiency in beans.
While the Sioux sat in council to determine that butchery, some objected, on the ground that such crimes would be punished, but Little Crow, leader of the war party, quieted their fears by saying:
"White man no like Indian! Indian catch white man, roast him, kill him! White man catch Indian, feed him, give him blankets," and on this assurance they acted.
One thing was clearly proven by that outbreak, viz.: that services to, and friendship for, Indians, are the best means of incurring their revenge. Those families who had been on most intimate terms with them, were those who were massacred first and with the greatest atrocities. The more frequently they had eaten salt with a pale-face, the more insatiable was their desire for vengeance. The missionaries were generally spared, as the source through which they expected pardon and supplies. The Indian was much too cunning to kill the goose that laid the golden egg. The tribe do not object to the conversion of individuals. Saying prayers does not interfere with their ideas of their own importance. Preachers do not labor with their hands, and Indians can join the clerical order or get religion, without losing caste, for labor to them is pollution.
Two wagon loads of arms and ammunition en route for Hole-in-the-day, were intercepted during the massacre, and for want of them he was induced to keep quiet. For being such a good Indian, he had a triumphal trip to Washington at government expense, got ten thousand dollars, and a seventh wife.
A MISSIVE AND A MISSION.
Soon after the people had returned to such homes as were left them, I received a letter from General Lowrie, who was then in an insane asylum in Cincinnati. I caught his humor and answered as carefully as if he had been a sick brother, gave an extract in the Democrat, accompanied by a notice, and sent him a copy; after which he wrote frequently, and I tried earnestly to soothe him. In one of his letters was this passage:
"Your quarrel and mine was all wrong. There was no one in that upper country capable of understanding you but me, no one capable of understanding me, but you. We should have been friends, and would have been, if we had not each had a self which we were all too anxious to defend."
After the Sioux had finished their work of horror, Minnesota men, aided by volunteers from Iowa and Wisconsin, pursued and captured the murderers of one thousand men, women and children; tried them, found them guilty, and proposed to hang them just as if they had been white murderers. But when the general government interfered and took the prisoners out of the hands of the State authorities, and when it became evident that Eastern people endorsed the massacre and condemned the victims as sinners who deserved their fate, one of the State officers proposed that I should go East, try to counteract the vicious public sentiment, and aid our Congressional delegation in their effort to induce the Administration either to hang the Sioux murderers, or hold them as hostages during the war.
To me this was a providential call, for I had been planning to make a home in the East, that our daughter, then old enough to live without me, might spend a portion of her time with her father.
With letters from all our State officers, I left my Minnesota home at four o'clock A.M., January 2nd, '63, leaving the Democrat in charge of my first apprentice, William B. Mitchell.
In Washington, the Minnesota delegation secured the use of Dr. Sutherland's church, and a packed audience for my lecture on Indians. It was enthusiastically applauded, and for a time I did hope for some security for women and children on the frontier; but the Secretary of the Interior assured me it was not worth while to see the President, for "Mr. Lincoln will hang nobody!" and our Minnesota delegation agreed with him. Indeed, there was such a furor of pious pity for the poor injured Sioux, such admiration for their long suffering patience under wrong, and final heroic resistance, that I might about as well have tried to row myself from the head of Goat Island up the rapids of Niagara, as stem that current. The ring which makes money by caudling Indians, had the ear of both President and people, and the Bureau had a paying contract in proving Little Crow's sagacity. The Sioux never were so well supplied with blankets and butcher-knives, as when they received their reward for that massacre; never had so many prayers said and hymns sung over them, and their steamboat ride down the Minnesota and Mississippi and up the Missouri, to a point within two days' walk of the scene of their exploits, furnished them an excursion of about two thousand miles, and left them well prepared for future operations. They appreciated their good fortune, have been a terror to United States troops and Western settlers ever since, and have enjoyed their triumph to the full.
One morning Senator Wilkinson and I went to see the President, and in the vestibule of the White House met two gentlemen whom he introduced as Sec. Stanton and Gen. Fremont. The first said he needed no introduction, and I said I had asked Senator Wilkinson to see him on my account. He replied:
"Do not ask any one to see me! If you want anything from me, come yourself. No one can have more influence."
Gen. Fremont inquired where I was staying, and said he would call on me. This frightened me, and I felt like running away. But they were so kind and cordial that our short chat is a pleasant memory; but Mr. Wilkinson and I failed to see Mr. Lincoln. Next day Sec. Stanton gave me an appointment in the Quarter Master General's office, but there was no place for me to go to work.
Gen. Fremont called at the houses of two friends where I was visiting, but both times I was absent. In 1850 I had also missed the calls of his wife and sister, and so I seemed destined never to meet the people I admired above all others.
My friends wished me to attend a Presidential reception; but it was useless to see Mr. Lincoln on the business which brought me to Washington, and I did not care to see him on any other. He had proved an obstructionist instead of an abolitionist, and I felt no respect for him; while his wife was every where spoken of as a Southern woman with Southern sympathies—a conspirator against the Union. I wanted nothing to do with the occupants of the White House, but was told I could go and see the spectacle without being presented. So I went in my broadcloth traveling dress, and lest there should be trouble about my early leave-taking, would not trust my cloak to the servants, but walked through the hall with it over my arm. I watched the President and Mrs. Lincoln receive. His sad, earnest, honest face was irresistible in its plea for confidence, and Mrs. Lincoln's manner was so simple and motherly, so unlike that of all Southern women I had seen, that I doubted the tales I had heard. Her head was not that of a conspirator. She would be incapable of a successful deceit, and whatever her purposes were, they must be known to all who knew her.
Mr. Lincoln stood going through one of those, dreadful ordeals of hand-shaking, working like a man pumping for life on a sinking vessel, and I was filled with indignation for the selfish people who made this useless drain on his nervous force. I wanted to stand between him and them, and say, "stand back, and let him live and do his work." But I could not resist going to him with the rest of the crowd, and when he took my hand I said:
"May the Lord have mercy on you, poor man, for the people have none." He laughed heartily, and the men around him, joined in his merriment. When I came to Mrs. Lincoln, she did not catch the name at first, and asked to hear it again, then repeated it, and a sudden glow of pleasure lit her face, as she held out her hand and said how very glad she was to see me. I objected to giving her my hand because my black glove would soil her white one; but she said:
"Then I shall preserve the glove to remember a great pleasure, for I have long wished to see you."
My escort was more surprised than I by her unusual cordiality, and said afterwards:
"It was no polite affectation. I cannot understand it from her."
I understood at once that I had met one with whom I was in sympathy. No politeness could have summoned that sudden flash of pleasure. Her manner was too simple and natural to have any art in it; and why should she have pretended a friendship she did not feel? Abolitionists were at a discount. They had gone like the front ranks of the French cavalry at Waterloo, into the sunken way, to make a bridge, over which moderate men were rushing to honors and emoluments. Gideon's army had done its work, and given place to the camp followers, who gathered up the spoils of victory. None wore so poor that they need do them reverence, and I recognized Mrs. Lincoln as a loyal, liberty-loving woman, more staunch even than her husband in opposition to the Rebellion and its cause, and as my very dear friend for life.
NO USE FOR ME AMONG THE WOUNDED.
I had not thought, even after deciding to remain in Washington, of doing any hospital work—knew nothing about it; and in strength was more like a patient than a nurse; but while I waited for a summons to go to the duties of my clerkship, I met some ladies interested in hospitals.
One of these, Mrs. Thayer, had an ambulance at her command, and took me for a day's visiting among the forts, on a day when it was known that our armies in Virginia were engaged with the enemy. The roads were almost impassable, and as a skillful driver and two good horses used their best efforts to take us from place to place, I felt like a thief; that ambulance ought to be at the front, and us with it, or on our knees pleading for the men whose breasts were a living wall between us and danger, between Liberty and her deadly foes.
The men in the forts had no special need of us, and sometimes their thanks for the tracts we brought them, gave an impulse to strike them square in the face, but Mrs. Thayer was happy in her work, and thought me uncivil to her friends.
We reached the last fort on our round before I saw anything interesting; and here a sorrowful woman drew me aside to tell me of the two weeks she had spent with her husband, now in the last stage of camp-fever, and of her fruitless efforts to get sufficient straw for his bed, while the bones were cutting through the skin as he lay on the slats of his cot. She wrung her hands in a strange, suppressed agony, and exclaimed "Oh! If they had only let me take him home when I came first; but say nothing here, or they will not let me stay."
I verified her statement of her husband's condition, so that I could speak from observation without compromising her, and spoke to the surgeon, who politely regretted the scarcity of straw, and hoped to get some soon.
I returned to the sufferer, who was from New Hampshire, and a very intelligent man; and after talking with him and his wife, concluded to look up the commander of that fort, and put some powder and a lighted match into his ear; but first consulted Mrs. Thayer, who begged me to take no notice, else she would no longer be permitted to visit the fort. She had introduced me to two fashionably dressed ladies, officers' wifes, resident there; and when I must say or do nothing about this man, lest I should destroy Mrs. Thayer's opportunity for doing good, I concluded we had discovered a new variety of savage, and came away thinking I could do something in the city.
Next morning I stated the case to Miss Dix, who was neither shocked nor surprised. I had never before seen her, but her tall, angular person, very red face, and totally unsympathetic manner, chilled me. The best ambulance in the service was exclusively devoted to her use, and I thought she would surely go or send a bed to that man before noon; but she proposed to do nothing of the kind, had engagements for the day, which seemed to me of small import compared to that of placing that man on a comfortable bed; but she could do nothing that day, by reason of these engagements, and nothing next day, it being Sunday, on which day she attended to no business. We spoke of the great battle then in progress, and I tendered my services, could take no regular appointment, would want no pay, could not work long; but might be of use in an emergency! Emergencies were things of which she had no conception. Everything in her world moved by rule, and her arrangements were complete. She had sent eight nurses to the front, and more could only be in the way.
I inquired about hospital supplies, and she grew almost enthusiastic in explaining the uselessness, nay, absurdity, of sending any. Government furnished everything that could possibly be wanted. The Sanitary and Christian Commissioners were all a mistake; Soldiers' Aid Societies a delusion and a snare. She was burdened with stores sent to her for which there was no use; and she hoped I would use my influence to stop the business of sending supplies.
From her I went direct to the Sanitary Commission, and found a large house full of salaried clerks and porters, and boxes, and bails, although this was not their storehouse.