I had procured from a vine in the plum-orchard a gourd of huge dimensions, such as in that day were used by frugal housewives for the keeping of lard for family use. It would hold in its capacious cavity at least half a bushel. This was cut one-third of its circumference for a mouth, and this was garnished with teeth from the quills of a venerable gander, an especial pet of my mother. The eyes were in proportion, and were covered with patches of red flannel, purloined from my mother's scrap-basket. A circle, an inch in diameter, made of charcoal, formed an iris to a pupil, cut round and large, through the flannel. A candle was lighted, and introduced through a hole at the bottom of the gourd, and all mounted upon a pole some ten feet long. In the dark it was hideous, and, on one or two occasions, had served secretly to frighten some negroes, to give it reputation. It was designed for Rhea, the Carolinian. On Saturday night it was his uniform practice to come up to the house, cleanly clad, to spend the evening. There was a canal which conveyed the water from the head above to the mill. This ran parallel with the stream, and was crossed, on the public road, by a bridge, one portion of which was shaded by a large crab-apple bush. Though fifty years ago, it still remains to mark the spot. Beyond the creek (which was bridged, for foot-passengers, with the trunk of a large tree,) was a newly cleared field, in which the negroes were employed burning brush on the Saturday night chosen for my sport. Here, under this crab-tree, I awaited the coming of Rhea. It was misty, and densely dark. Presently the footsteps of my victim were heard approaching; he was on the bridge. He came on cautiously, to be secure of a safe footing in the dark. Suddenly I turned the grinning monster full in his face. A scream and a leap followed. Down the muddy creek-bank rushed my victim, plunged through the tumbling waters waist-deep, and, as soon as the opposite shore was reached, a vociferous call was made for Tom, the negro foreman. Horror of horrors! it was my father's voice. In an instant my candle was out, and I was running.
I passed unconcernedly through the house and took a seat in the back passage, and awaited events. It was not long before the sloppy noise of shoes full of water, heard in walking, came through the yard, and into the house. It was my dear old frightened father, all reeking from his plunge into the creek. "Why, husband," asked mother, "how did you get so wet?" He slung the damp from his hat as he cleared his throat, and said: "I slipped off that cursed log, in crossing the creek." Reflection had told him he had been foolishly frightened, and he was ashamed to acknowledge it. My conscience smote me, but I laughed, and trembled—for had he made discovery of the trick, it would have been my time to suffer.
Memory brings back the features, the kind and gentle look of that dear and indulgent parent, and the unbidden tear comes. The last time I ever saw him was at the terminus of the railroad, on the banks of Lake Pontchartrain; he placed his aged arms about my shoulders, and, pressing me to his bosom, bid me "Farewell," as, trembling with emotion, he continued: "we are parting forever, my child." He had met misfortunes in his latter days, and was poor, but I had filled his purse with the means which smoothed his way the remnant of his life. The prediction was but too true; in less than one year after that parting, he slept in death.
And now, when war and death have swept from me children, fortune, all, and I am old and needy, it is a consolation known only to my own bosom that I plucked the thorn from my parent's path.
These are childish memories, and may be too puerile for record; but I am sure most of my readers will find in them something of their own childhood's memories. It is my memories of men and things, I am writing, and I would be faithful to them.
Boyhood's memories crowd the after-life with half the joys its destiny demands; associations which revive them come as pleasant showers to the parched herbage when autumn's sun withers its flush, and yellows the green of spring-time. Oh! the zest of early sports—of boyhood's mischief; so free from selfishness, so untouched with meanness, so full of joyous excitement, so loved for itself. Every man has been a boy; every woman has been a girl; and all alike have felt and enjoyed the sweets of young life; and when years and cares and tears have stolen away the green from the soul, and the blossoms of the grave whiten about the brow, and the unbidden sigh breaks away from the grief of the heart, and memory startles with what was when we were young, the contrast would be full of misery did not a lingering of the joys which filled our frolics and our follies come to dull the edge of sorrow.
When the cravings of the mind, taught by time to be unrealizable, are driven from hope; when the purity of youthful feelings are soiled by contact with the world's baseness; when the world's passing interests harden the sensibilities, and we have almost forgotten that we were ever young, or had a youthful joy, some little story, some little incident will startle the memory, and touch and tone the heart to the music of its spring, and the desert waste which time has made green again with memories which grew from bliss budding in our youth; and, though they never come to fruitage, are cherished with a joy.
Oh! the heart, the heart—what are all its joys of youth, and all its griefs of age? Is it that youth has no apprehensions, and we enjoy its anticipations and its present without alloy? or does its all belong to love and joy when life and the world is new? Are these too bright, too pure for time? and the griefs of later life the Dead Sea apples which grow from them. And is it so with all? Is there one, whose years have brought increase of happiness, and who has lived on without a sorrow?
In God's economy must all experience misery, to dull the love of life, and kindle hope for a blissful future, to steal from the heart its cherished here, to yield it all in its hereafter. Ah! we know what a world this is, but what a world is to come we know not. Is it not as reasonable to believe we lived before our birth into this, as to hope we shall live after death in another world? Is this hope the instinct of the coming, or does it grow from the baser instinct of love for the miserable life we have? It is easy to ask, but who shall answer? Is it the mind which remembers, and is the mind the soul? or is the soul independent of the mind, surviving the mind's extinction? and do the memories of time die with time? or,
Do these pursue beyond the grave? Must the surviving spirit have Its memories of time and grief? Then, surely, death is poor relief. Shall it forget the all of time, When time's with all her uses gone, And be a babe in that new clime? Then death is but oblivion.
Youth's happiness is half of hope; all that of age is memory—and yet these memories more frequently sadden than gladden the heart. Then what is life to age? Garrulity, and to be in the way. Our household gods grow weary of our worship, and the empty stool we have filled in gray and trembling age in the temple we have built, when we are gone is kicked away, and we are forgotten; our very children regret (though they sometimes assume a painful apprehension) we do not make haste to die—if we have that they crave, and inherit when we shall have passed to eternity. But if the gift of raiment and food is imposed by poverty on those who gave them birth, they complain, and not unfrequently turn from their door the aged, palsied parent, to die, or live on strangers' charity. Sad picture, but very true, very true; poor human nature! And man, so capable in his nature of this ungodliness, boasts himself made after God's own image. Vanity of vanities!
Nature's harmony, nature's loveliness, nature's expansive greatness and grandeur teaches of God, and godliness. The inanimate and unthinking are consistently harmonious and beautiful; man only mars the harmony, and makes a hell for man in time. Then, is time his all? or, shall this accursed rabidness be purged away with death, and he become a tone in accord with inanimate things? or, shall this but purify as fire the yielding metal, the inner man, which hope or instinct whispers lives, and animates its tenement of time, to view, to know, and to enjoy creation through eternity? Wild thoughts are kindling in my brain, wild feelings stir my heart.
This is a beautiful Sabbath morning, the blazing sun wades through the blue ether, and space seems redolent of purity and beauty. The breeze is as bland as the breath of a babe, coming through my casement with the light, and bathing my parched cheek; and the sere summer is warming away the gentle, genial spring. This is her last day; and to how many countless thousands is it the last day of life? Oh! could I die as gently, as beautifully as dies this budding season of the year, and could I know my budding hopes, like these buds of spring, would, in their summer, grow to fruit as these are growing, how welcome eternity! But I, as well, have my law, and must wait its fulfilment. It is the Sabbath wisely ordained to rest, and in its quiet and beauty obviating care and sorrow. Would it were to the restless mind as to the weary limbs, and as to these, to this give ease and repose!
I have been dreaming, and my boyhood days revive with busy memories. My gentle mother, ever tender and kind, seems busy before me; the old home, the old servants, as they were; the old school-house in the woods by the branch, and many a merry face laughing and beaming around; and my own old classmate, my solitary classmate, so loved, ah! so loved even unto this day. It was only yesterday I saw him, old and care-worn, yet in all the nobility of his soul, bearing with stern philosophy the miseries of misfortune inflicted by the red hand of merciless war, yielding with dignity and graceful resignation to the necessities imposed by unscrupulous power, conscious of no wrong, and sustained by that self-respect the result of constant and undeviating rectitude which has marked his long life. From childhood our hearts have been intertwined, and death only has the power to tear them apart. We sat together long hours, and talked of the past—alternately, as their memories floated up, asking each other, "Where is this one? and this?" and to each inquiry the sad monosyllable, "Dead!" was the reply, of all who were with us at school when we were boys. We alone are left!
In my strife with the world, I can never forget The scenes of my childhood, and those who were there When I was a child. I remember them yet; Their features, their persons, to memory so dear, Are present forever, and cling round my heart— On the plains of the West, in the forest's deep wild, On the blue, briny sea, in commerce's mart, 'Mid the throngs of gay cities with palaces piled.
The bottle of milk, and the basket of food, Prepared by my mother, at dawning of day, For my dinner at school; and path through the wood: How well I remember that wood and that way, The brook which ran through it, the bridge o'er the brook, The dewberry-briers which grew by its side, My slate, and my satchel, and blue spelling-book, And little white pony father gave me to ride!
The spring by the hill, where our bottles were placed To bathe in its waters, so clear and so cool, Till dinner-time came! Oh! then how we raced To get them, and dine in the shade by the pool! The spring, and the pool, and the shade are still there, But the dear old school-house has rotted and gone, And all who were happy about it are—where? Go—go to the church-yard, and ask the grave-stone!
A few there are left, old, tottering, and gray, Apart and forgotten, as those who are dead; Yet sometimes they meet on life's thorny way, And talk, and live over the days that have fled. Oh! how I remember those faces so bright, Which beamed in their boyhood with honesty's ray! And oft, when alone, in the stillness of night, We're all at the school-house again, and at play!
Of all those who were there with me, the best loved was H.S. Smith, now of Mobile; and he, with perhaps one or two more, are all that are now living. Our ages are the same, within a week or two, I am sure; and we are of the same height and same weight; and our attachment was mutual: it has never been marred through threescore years and ten, and to-day we are, as brothers should be, without a secret hidden in the heart, the one from the other. As a friend, as a husband, as a father, as a man, I know none to rival H.S. Smith. He never aspired to political distinction: content to pursue, through life, the honorable and responsible business of a merchant, he has distinguished himself for energy, capacity, probity, and success; and in his advanced years enjoys the confidence and esteem of all honest men. Our years have been, since 1826, spent apart—communication, however, has never ceased between us, and the early friendship, so remarked by all who knew us, continues, and will until one is alone in life.
I know this narrative will not be interesting to those unacquainted with Smith and myself. To such I say, close the book, nor read on, but turn to that which may interest more, because more known. I could not pen the memories of fifty years, and forbear those the sweetest now, because their fruit to me has ever been the sweetest; and the noble virtues of the private gentleman cannot be the less appreciated because they have only adorned a circle where they shone in common with those around him. These are the men who preserve the public morals, and purify the atmosphere polluted by the corruptions of men prominent before the world for distinguished abilities, and equally distinguished immoralities. From these radiate that open-hearted honesty which permeates society, and teaches by example, and which so often rebukes the laxity of those who, from position, should be an example and an ornament. The purling stream murmuring its lowly song beneath the shading forest and modest shrubs may attract less attention than the turbid, roaring river, but is always purer, sweeter, more health-giving and lovely.
The romance of youth is the sugar of life, and its sweets to memory, as life recedes, augment as "distance lends enchantment to the view." We make no account of the evanescent troubles which come to us then but for a moment, and are immediately chased away with the thickening delights that gild young life and embalm it for the memories of age. The gravity of years delights to recount these; and few are indisposed to listen, for it is a sort of heart-history of every one, and in hearing or reading, memory awakes, and youth and its joys are back again, even to tottering, palsied age. Then, gentle reader, do not sneer at me: these are all I have left; my household gods are torn away, my boys sleep in bloody graves, my home is desolate, I am alone, with only one to comfort me—she who shares the smiles and tears which lighten and soothe the weary days of ebbing life.
INFLUENCE OF CHILDHOOD.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS—FORTUNE—MIRABEAU B. LAMAR—DR. ALONZO CHURCH—JULIUS CAESAR—L.Q.C. LAMAR—TEXAN INDEPENDENCE—COLQUITT—LUMPKIN—WHAT A GREAT MAN CAN DO IN ONE DAY—CHARLES J. JENKINS.
The memories of childhood cling, perhaps, more tenaciously than those of any after period of life. The attachments and antipathies then formed are more enduring. Our school-companions at our first school—the children of our immediate neighborhood, who first rolled with us upon the grass, and dabbled with us in the branch—we never forget. Time, absence, protracted separation, all fail to obliterate the features, the dispositions, or anything about them, which so unconsciously fastens upon the mind, and grows into the tender soul of childhood. These memories retain and bring back with them the feelings, the likes and dislikes, which grew with them. These feelings are the basis of lifetime loves, and eternal antipathies.
The boy is father to the man, as the girl is mother to the woman. Who that has lived seventy years will not attest this from his own life's experience? The generous, truthful boy will be the noble, honorable man; the modest, timid, truthful girl will be the gentle, kind, and upright woman. Nature plants the germ, and education but cultivates the tree. It never changes the fruit. The boy who, when dinner-time comes, happens to have a pie, when his fellows have none, and will open his basket before his companions, and divide with them, will carry the same trait to the grave. His hand will open to assist the needy, and he will seek no reward beyond the consciousness of having done right. And he who, with the same school-boy's treasure, will steal away, and devour it behind the school-house, and alone, will, through life, be equally mean in all his transactions. From motives of interest, he may assume a generosity of conduct, but the innate selfishness of his heart will, in the manner of his dispensing favors, betray itself. Education, and the influences of polished society, may refine the manners, but they never soften the heart to generous emotions, where nature has refused to sow its seed. But where her hand has been liberal in this divine dispensation, no misfortune, no want of education or association, will prevent their germination and fructification. Such hearts divide their joys and their sorrows, with the fortunate and afflicted, with the same emotional sincerity with which they lift their prayers to Heaven.
The school-room is an epitome of the world. There the same passions influence the conduct of the child, which will prompt it in riper years, and the natural buddings of the heart spring forth, and grow on to maturity with the mind and the person. College life is but another phase of this great truth, when these natural proclivities are more manifest, because more matured. It is not the greatest mind which marks the greatest soul, and it is not the most successful who are the noblest and best. The shrewd, the mean, and the selfish grow rich, and are prosperous, and are courted and preferred, because there are more who are mean and venal in the world than there are who are generous and good. But it is the generous and good who are the great benefactors of mankind; and yet, if there was no selfishness in human nature, there would be no means of doing good. Wealth is the result of labor and economy. These are not incompatible with generosity and ennobling manliness. The proper discrimination in the application of duties and donations toward the promotion of useful institutions, and the same discrimination in the dispensation of private charities, characterize the wise and good of the world. These attributes of mind and heart are apparent in the child; and in every heart, whatever its character, there is a natural respect and love for these, and all who possess them. Such grow with their growth in the world's estimation, and are prominent, however secluded in their way of life, or unpretending in their conduct, with all who know them, or with whom, in the march of life, they come in contact.
It is to but few that fortune throws her gifts, and these are rarely the most deserving, or the goddess had not been represented with a bandage over her eyes. She is blind, and though her worshippers are many, she kisses but few, and cannot see if they be fair and beautiful or crooked and ugly. Hence most of those who receive her favors conceal them in selfishness, and hoard them to be despised; while hundreds, slighted of her gifts, cultivate the virtues, which adorn and ennoble, and are useful and beloved.
Will you, who yet live, and were children when I was a child, turn back with me in memory to those days, and to those who were your school-fellows and playmates then? Do you remember who were the brave and generous, kind and truthful among them? and do you recall their after lives? Answer me; were not these the true men in that day? Do you remember William C. Dawson, Joseph H. Lumpkin, Lucius Q.C. Lamar, and his brother Mirabeau B. Lamar, Eugenius Nesbit, Walter T. Colquitt, and Eli S. Shorter? How varied in temperament, in character, in talent; and yet how like in the great leading features of the soul! Love for their country, love for their kind, love for the good was common to them all; unselfish beyond what was necessary to the wants of their families, generous in the outpourings of the soul, philanthropic, and full of charity. They hoarded no wealth, nor sought it as a means of power or promotion. Intent upon the general good, and content with an approving conscience and the general approbation, their lives were correct, and their services useful; and they live in the memory of a grateful people as public benefactors.
There are others who rise to memory, who were at school with these, who were men with these, but they shall be nameless, who struggled, and successfully, to fill their coffers to repletion, and for nothing else; who have been courted by the mercenary, and flattered by the fawning sycophant; who, with their hoardings, have passed away, and no grateful memory remains of their lives; their hoards are dissipated, and they are only remembered to be despised. And yet others, who swam in the creek and sported on the play-ground with all of these, whose vicious propensities were apparent then—whose after lives were as their boyhood promised, a curse to society in evil deeds and evil example—have gone, too, unwept, unhonored, and luckily unhung.
Mirabeau B. Lamar was the son of John Lamar, of Putnam County, Georgia, and received his education principally at Milledgeville and at Putnam. From his earliest boyhood, he was remarkable for his genius and great moral purity. His ardent, poetical temperament was accompanied with exquisite modesty, and a gentle playfulness of disposition; with an open, unaffected kindness of heart, which as a boy rendered him popular with his fellows at school, and beloved by his teachers. There was in him a natural chivalry of character, which characterized him above all of his early compeers, and made him a model in conduct. Truthful and manly, retiring and diffident, until occasion called out the latent spirit of his nature; then the true greatness of his soul would burst forth in an impetuous eloquence, startlingly fierce and overwhelming. Nor was this excitement always wasted in words—not a few, when yet a boy, have regretted the awakening of his wrath. It was upon occasions like this, that his eye assumed an expression which I have never seen in the eye of any other human being. His eyes were beautifully blue, large, and round, and were always changing and varying in their expression, as the mind would suggest thought after thought; and so remarkable were these variations, that, watching him in repose, one who knew him well could almost read the ideas gathering and passing through his mind. There was a pleasant vein of satire in his nature, sometimes expressed, but always in words and in a manner which plucked away its sting:
An abstract wit of gentle flow, Which wounds no friend, and hurts no foe.
He was my school-fellow and companion in childhood, my friend and associate in early manhood; our intimacy was close and cordial, and in after life this friendship became intense—and I knew him perhaps better than any man ever knew him.
All the peculiarities of the boy remained with the man, distinguishing him in all his associations. The refined purity of his nature made him naturally to despise and scorn all meanness and vice, and so intensely as to render an association with any man distinguished by these, however exalted his intellect, or extensive his attainments, impossible. Falsehood, or the slightest dishonorable conduct in any man, put him at once beyond the pale of his favor or respect. In all my association with him, I never saw an indelicate act in his conduct, or heard an obscene word in his conversation. In youth, he was fond of the society of ladies—fond of this society not for a pastime, but because of his high appreciation of the virtues of those he selected for society. In his verse, "Memoriam," he has embalmed the memory of those of our early female friends he most esteemed. He rather courted this association in the individual than in the collective assembly—for he was not fond of crowds, either in society, or the ordinary assemblages of men and women.
The love of fame, more than any other passion, fired his ambition; but it was not the love of notoriety—the fame he courted was not that which should only render his name conspicuous among men, that he might receive the incense of hypocritical flattery, or be pointed at by the fickle multitude—for such, his contempt was supreme; but it was the desire of his heart, and the struggle of his life, to be embalmed in men's memories as the benefactor of his race, to be remembered for his deeds as the great and the good. This was the spontaneous prompting of his heart, and for this he labored with the zeal of a martyr.
Much of his early life was devoted exclusively to literature. His reading, though without order, was select and extensive. He was well versed in ancient history. The heroic characters of Greece and Rome were his especial admiration, and that of Brutus above all others. Of the nations of modern Europe, and their history, he knew everything history could teach. His imagination was fired with the heroic in the character of those of modern times, as well as those of antiquity, and seemed the model from which was formed his own. The inflexible integrity, the devoted patriotism, the unselfish heroism of these were constantly his theme when a schoolboy, and the example for his imitation in manhood.
When a school-boy, and at a public examination and exhibition, (then common at the academies throughout the State,) our teacher, that paragon of good men, Dr. Alonzo Church, selected the tragedy of Julius Caesar for representation by the larger boys, and, by common consent, the character of Brutus was assigned to Lamar. Every one felt that the lofty patriotism and heroic virtues of the old Roman would find a fit representative in Lamar. I remember, in our rehearsals, how completely his identity would be lost in that of Brutus. He seemed to enter into all the feelings and the motives which prompted the great soul of the Roman to slay his friend for his country's good. Time has left but one or two who participated in the play. The grave has closed over Lamar, as over the others. Those who remain will remember the bearing of their companion, on that occasion, as extraordinary—the struggle between inclination and duty—the pathos with which he delivered his speech to the people after the assassination, but especially his bearing and manner in the reply to Cassius' proposition to swear the conspirators—the expansion of his person to all its proportions, as if his soul was about to burst from his body, as he uttered:
"No, not an oath."
And again, when the burning indignation burst from him at the supposition of the necessity of an oath to bind honorable men:
"Swear priests, and cowards, and men cautelous, Old, feeble, carious, and such suffering souls That welcome wrongs, unto bad causes. Swear Such creatures as men doubt, but do not stain The even virtue of our enterprise, Nor the unsuppressive mettle of our spirits, To think that our cause, or our performance, Did need an oath; when every drop of blood That every Roman bears, and nobly bears, Is guilty of a several bastardy If he do break the smallest particle Of any promise that hath passed from him."
Though a boy, the effect upon the audience was electrical. The nature of his boy representative was the same as that which animated Rome's noblest son. From his soul he felt every word, and they burned from his lips, with a truth to his soul and sentiments, that went home to every heart in that assembly of plain farmers, and their wives and daughters. There were not ten, perhaps, who had ever witnessed a theatrical entertainment, but their hearts were mortal and honest, and they saw in the mimic youth the impersonation of the nobility of soul, and mighty truth, and the spontaneous burst of applause was but the sincerity of truth. The exclamation of one I shall never forget: "He is cut out for a great man." There was no stage-trick; he had never seen a theatre. There was no assumption of fictitious feeling; but nature bubbled up in his heart, and the words of Shakspeare, put into the mouth of Brutus, were but the echo of the deep, true feelings of his soul. Through all his life this great nature adorned his conversation, and exemplified his conduct.
The soul of Brutus was born in Lamar. All the truth and chivalry illustrative of the conduct of the one, was palpable in the other. Let those who saw him, at San Jacinto, at the head of his sixty horsemen, ride upon the ranks of Santa Anna's hosts, tell of his bearing in that memorable charge, when he rose in his stirrups, and, waving his sword over his head, exclaimed: "Remember, men, the Alamo! Remember Goliad, Fannin, Bowie, and Travis! Charge! and strike in vengeance for the murdered of our companions." Resistless as the tempest, they followed his lead, and swept down upon the foe, charging through, and disordering their ranks, and, following in their flight for miles, made many a Mexican bite the dust, or yield himself a prisoner to their intrepidity. To this charge was solely attributable the capture of Santa Anna, Almonte, and the principal portion of the Mexican army, and the establishment of Texan independence.
As a poet, he was above mediocrity, and his "Sully Riley," and many of his fugitive pieces, will long survive, to perpetuate the refined delicacy of his nature, when, perhaps, his deeds as a soldier and as President of Texas shall have passed away. In stature he was below the medium height, but was stout and muscular. His face was oval, and his eyes blue, and exceedingly soft and tender in their expression, save when aroused by excitement, when they were blazing and luminous with the fire of his soul, which enkindled them. He was free from every vice, temperate in living, and remarkable for his indifference to money—with a lofty contempt for the friends and respectability which it alone conferred. If there ever lived four men insensible to fear, or superior to corruption, they were the four brothers Lamar. They are all in eternity, and their descendants are few, but they wear unstained the mantle of their ancestry.
L.Q.C. Lamar, the elder brother of the four, was educated at Franklin College, and studied law in Milledgeville. Very soon after, he was admitted to the Bar. He became distinguished for attention to business, and for talent, as well as legal attainments. Like his brother, M.B. Lamar, he was remarkable for his acute sense of honor and open frankness, a peerless independence, and warm and noble sympathies. He married, while young, the daughter of D. Bird. The mother of his lady was one of the Williamson sisters, so remarkable for their superiority, intellectually, and whose descendants have been, and are, so distinguished for talent.
The character of L.Q.C. Lamar as a man, and as a lawyer, prompted the Legislature of the State to elevate him to the Bench of the Superior Court when very young; and at thirty-two years of age, he was known throughout the State as the great Judge Lamar. This family had contributed perhaps a greater number of men of distinguished character than any other family of the State. Zachariah Lamar, the uncle of Judge Lamar, was a man of high order of mind, distinguished for his love of truth, stern honesty, and great energy. He was the father of Colonel John B. Lamar, who fell in the service of the South, in the recent conflict. He was one of Georgia's noblest sons, and his memory is cherished by all who knew him. Henry G. Lamar, a former member of Congress, and Judge of the Superior Court of the State, was a cousin of both John B. and M.B. Lamar; and the eminent and eloquent Lucius Lamar, of Mississippi, who was considered, when young, the best orator of the House of Representatives of the United States Congress, is the son of Judge L.Q.C. Lamar.
The name of Lamar has long been a synonym for talent and chivalrous honor in Georgia. They have been distinguished in every pursuit, and no stain has ever rested upon the name—in whatever avocation employed, conspicuous for capacity, honesty, and energy. They are of French extraction, and to their latest posterity they continue to exhibit those traits peculiar to the French—chivalry, intense sensibility, love of truth, refinement of manner, lofty bearing, and a devotion to honor which courts death rather than dishonor.
The name of M.B. Lamar is identified with the history of Texas, as a leader among that band of remarkable men who achieved her independence of Mexican rule—Houston, Sidney Johnson, Bowie, Travis, Crockett, and Fannin. He was twice married; his first wife, Miss Jordan, died young, leaving him a daughter. This was a bitter blow, and it was long ere he recovered it. His second wife was the daughter of the distinguished Methodist preacher John Newland Moffitt, and sister of Captain Moffitt, late of the service of the Confederacy. He died at Richmond, Fort Bend County, Texas, beloved and regretted as few have been.
Perhaps among the most remarkable men of the State, contemporaneous with the Lamars, was Walter T. Colquitt, Joseph H. Lumpkin, Charles J. Jenkins, William C. Dawson, and Charles J. McDonald: all of these were natives of the State—Colquitt, Eugenius A. Nesbit, and McDonald, of Hancock County; Lumpkins, Oglethorpe, Dawson, Green, and Jenkins, of Richmond; Nesbit, of Greene. At the period of time when these men were young, education was deemed essential, at least to professional men. They all enjoyed the benefits of a classical education. Lumpkin and Colquitt received theirs at Princeton, New Jersey, and I believe were classmates, at least they were college-mates. Colquitt returned home before graduating; Lumpkin received the second honor in his class. Returning to Georgia, Lumpkin read law in the town of Lexington, the court-house town of his native county; and commenced, as soon as admitted, its practice in the northern circuit of the State. At the time he came to the Bar, it was ornamented with such men as Thomas W. Cobb, Stephen Upson, George R. Gilmer, John A. Herd, and Duncan G. Campbell. He rose rapidly to eminence in the midst of this galaxy of talent and learning. The great John M. Dooly was upon the bench of this circuit, and was the intimate friend of Wilson Lumpkin, an elder brother of Joseph H. Lumpkin.
Wilson Lumpkin and Joseph H. Lumpkin were politically opposed. The former was an especial friend of Dooly; the latter, of William H. Crawford. Mr. Crawford, soon after Lumpkin's admission to the Bar, returned to his home, near Lexington, and gave his countenance and support to him, and at the same time his bitterest opposition to the political aspirations of his brother. The forensic abilities of young Lumpkin were winning for him in the State a proud eminence. His exalted moral character, studious habits, and devotion to business attracted universal observation and general comment. He had been from his birth the favorite of all his acquaintances, for the high qualities of his head and heart—the model held up by mothers for the example of their sons. Scarcely any boy in the county was ever reprimanded for a wild frolic or piece of amusing mischief, who was not asked, "Why can't you be like Joe Lumpkin?"
All this favoritism, however flattering, did not spoil him, as is too frequently the case with precocious youth. His ambition had fixed a lofty mark, and he availed himself of this universal popularity to reach it; at the same time, he left no effort neglected to deserve it, and maintain it, once acquired.
The State was teeming with young men of talent, scarcely a county without at least one of great promise. Lumpkin saw and knew the rivalry would be fierce, and success only to be obtained by superior abilities and eminent attainments. The Legislature was the first step to fame, and political fame then the most desired and the most sought. Party was rancorous in its spirit, producing intense excitement, pervading every bosom, male and female, to the extremes of the State—an excitement which so stamped itself upon the hearts of the entire people as to endure, and to mark their character and opinions even until to-day.
Lumpkin was very decided in his opinions, and open in their expression, yet there was none of that empoisoned bitterness in these expressions so characteristic of political aspirants in that day. Such was alien to his kindly nature; and if it had not been, there were other causes to estop him from any such indulgence. His family was large. There were eight brothers; only one of these was younger than himself; these were about equally divided in political sentiment, and they, at least some of them, less amiable or less considerate than himself. He was the favorite of all, and was continually in communication with all of them, and was really the moderator of the family, and the healer of its feuds. At this time, too, the deep morality of his nature was growing into piety, and this sentiment was mellowing from his heart even the little of unkindness that had ever found a place there.
At twenty-five years of age he was sent, by an almost unanimous vote, to the Legislature from his county. He came with an exaggerated reputation for talent, especially for oratorical talent, and many of his friends feared he would not be able to sustain it in that body, where there were many of age and experience, with characters already long established for learning and eloquence, and also many young men from different parts of the State, who, like himself, had already won fame for high talent. Among these was Robert Augustus Bell, in sight of whose grave I write these lines. He passed away in early life, but Georgia never produced a brighter or a nobler spirit. There were also Charles Dougherty, (who died young, but not without making his mark,) William Law, Hopkins Holsey, and others, who have honored themselves and the State by eminent services on the Bench and at the Bar, and in the councils of their native and other States to which many of them emigrated.
At the very opening of the session, Lumpkin took position with the first on the floor of the House of Representatives. His first speech was one of thrilling eloquence, and, before its conclusion, had emptied the Senate chamber; many of its oldest and most talented members crowding about him, and listening with delight.
The memory of that day revives with the freshness of yesterday. Two or three only remain with me now, to recall the delight with which all hearts were filled who acted, politically, with Lumpkins, as the beautiful and cogent sentences thrilled from his lips, with a trembling fervor, which came from an excitement born of the heart, and which went to the heart. Bell, Brailsford, Dougherty, Rumbert, and Baxter, who, with myself, grouped near him, all are in the grave, save only I, and, standing a few weeks since by the fresh mould that covers Joseph H. Lumpkin, and yesterday by the grave of Bell, my mind wandered back to the old State House, and to those who were with me there. Separated for more than forty years from the home of my birth, being with, and becoming a part of another people—a noble, generous, and gallant people—and almost forgetting my mother tongue, these had faded away almost into forgetfulness; but, tottering with years, and full of sorrows, I am here amid the scenes made lovely and memorable by their presence, when we were all young and hopeful. They come back to me, and now, while I write, it seems their spirits float in the air of my chamber, and smile at me. Why is my summons delayed so long? All that made life lovely is gone—youth, fortune, and household gods. My children are in bloody graves—she who bore them preceded them to eternity; yet I live on, and sigh, and remember, while imagination peoples with the past the scenes about me. The faces, the jest, and merry laugh come again; I see and hear them again. Oblivion veils away the interval of forty-five years, and all is as it was. Oh, could the illusion last till death shall make it truth! It is, I feel, but a foretaste of the reality soon to be, when hearts with hearts shall group again, and the reunion of sundered ties be eternal.
Lumpkin served a few sessions in the Legislature, and retired from public life to devote his entire attention to his profession. He had married, almost as soon as he was admitted to the Bar, one to whom he had been attached from boyhood, and the cares of a family were increasing and demanding his attention and efforts. No man ever more faithfully discharged these duties.
The judiciary of Georgia had consisted of two courts only—the superior, and inferior or county court—from the organization of the State. The country had long felt the want of a supreme court, for the correction of errors, and to render uniform the decisions upon the law throughout the State, which, under the prevailing system, had become very diverse, and which was becoming grievously oppressive. Finally it was determined by the Legislature to establish a supreme court. After the passage of the law, however, its organization was incomplete for the want of judges. Party was distracting the councils of the State, and was carried into everything, and each party desired a controlling influence in this court, and their united co-operation in selecting judges could only be effected by the dominant party consenting to Joseph H. Lumpkin's accepting the chief-justiceship. He consented to do so, and the organization of the court was completed. This position, under repeated elections, he continued to hold until the day of his death, which occurred in the spring of 1867.
No man, perhaps, ever had the confidence of a people in the discharge of a high judicial duty more than had Joseph H. Lumpkin. His public duties were discharged with the most scrupulous conscientiousness, as were all of those pertaining to his private life and relations. He died in the neighborhood of his birth, and where he had continued to live through his whole life, passing through time with the companions of his childhood, and preserving their confidence and affection to the last. His death was sudden, and deeply mourned throughout the State, which had delighted so long to honor him. His name is identified with her history, as one of her brightest and best men.
The talents of Judge Lumpkin were of a high order, and though he distinguished himself as a jurist, they were certainly more fitted for the forum than the bench. Those who knew him best, and who were best fitted to judge, unite in the opinion that his eminence in political life would have been greater than that which distinguished him as a judge. He was a natural orator, and his oratory was of the highest order. His ideas flowed too fast for the pen, and he thought more vividly when on his feet, and in the midst of a multitude, than when in the privacy of his chamber. His language was naturally ornate and eloquent, and the stream of thought which flowed on in declamation, brightened and grew, in its progress, to a mighty volume. This, with the fervor of intense feeling which distinguished his efforts, made them powerfully effective. In toning down these feelings, and repressing the ornate and beautiful to the cold, concise legal opinion, his delivery lost not only its beauty, but much of its strength and power. He might have been less useful, but certainly he would have been more distinguished, had he pursued the bent of his genius. Abilities like Lumpkin's must succeed respectably, if directed to any pursuit; and even should they be prostituted to base and dishonorable purposes, they will distinguish the possessor above the herd.
His temperament was nervous, his sensibility acute, and his sentiments exalted. Fluent, with great command of language, he was peculiarly gifted for display in debate, and it was supposed, when he first came into the Legislature, that he would soon rise to the first position in the national councils. But he determined for himself a different field; and, in view of his eminent services as an able and conscientious judge, who shall say he did not choose wisely?
In an almost adjoining county to that of the residence of Judge Lumpkin, was coming forward, in the profession of law, another gifted son of Georgia—Walter T. Colquitt. He was a compeer, at the Bar, of Chief-Justice Lumpkin. They were admitted to practice about the same time. He was a native of the county of Hancock. His mother was the only sister of the eight brothers Holt, every one of whom was distinguished for probity and worth. They all lived and died in the State, and every one of them was a representative man. They have all left descendants but one, and none yet have stained the name. As their ancestors, they are energetic, honest, and most worthy citizens.
Colquitt gave evidence, when very young, of his future career. As a boy, he was wild and full of mirth, but little inclined to study. He was fond of sport of every kind, and in everything to which his mind and inclinations turned, he would be first. Compelled, by parental authority, to apply himself, he at once mastered his task, and was ready, then, for fun or frolic. Remarkable for physical powers, he fondly embarked in all athletic sports, and in all excelled. Bold and fearless, he was the leader in all adventures of mischief, and always met the consequences in the same spirit. It was remarked of him, when a boy, by one who knew him well, that in all he did he played "high, game," never "low, Jack."
In the wildness of his mischief there was always discoverable boldness and mind. At school and at college, though rarely winning an honor, he was always admitted by his fellows to possess superior abilities. These abilities were manifest more in the originality of his ideas, and their peculiar exemplification in his conduct, than in the sober, every-day manner of thought and action. His mind was versatile, and seemed capable of grasping and analyzing any subject. Quick to perceive and prompt to execute, yielding obedience to no dogma, legal or political, he followed the convictions of his mind, without regard to precedent or example. His knowledge of human nature seemed intuitive, and his capacity of adaptation was without limit. At the period when he commenced the practice of law, the successful abilities in the profession were forensic. Every case was tried by a jury, and the law made juries judges of law and fact. The power to control and direct these was the prime qualification of a lawyer, and nature had bestowed this, in an eminent degree, upon Colquitt. There were few more eminent as advocates, or more successful as practitioners, though his legal attainments were never of a very high order. He was elevated to the bench, where he remained but a short time, feeling that this was no situation for the display of his peculiar powers, nor the proper or successful course for the gratification of his ambition. He had, at a previous time, united himself with the Methodist Church, and was licensed to preach. It was his habit to open his court, each morning, with prayer, and not unfrequently, during the week of his court, in each county of his circuit, to preach two or three sermons. He was a general of the militia, and would come down from the bench to review a regiment or brigade. It was this discharge of his multifarious duties which prompted an aged sister of his church, when the great men of the State were being discussed by the venerable ladies of a certain neighborhood, to claim the palm for Colquitt.
"Ah! you may talk of your great men, but none on 'em is equal to brother Colquitt; for he, in our county, tried a man for his life, and sentenced him to be hung, preached a sermon, mustered all the men in the county, married two people, and held a prayer-meeting, all in one day. Now, wa'n't that great?"
Before a jury he was unequalled. His knowledge of men enabled him to determine the character of every juror, and his versatility to adapt his argument or address to their feelings and prejudices so effectually as to secure a verdict in mere compliment to the advocate. He left the bench to enter the political arena. It was here he found the field nature designed him for. Before the people, he was omnipotent. At this period Dawson, Cooper, Colquitt, Cobb, Stephens, and Toombs were before the people—all men of talent, and all favorites in the State. This was especially true of Dawson, Cobb, and Stephens, and no men better deserved the public favor.
Very soon after he went into Congress, he, with Cooper and Black, abandoned the Whig party. At the approaching election they canvassed the State, and justified their course before the people. There was no middle ground on which to stand. To abandon one party, was to go over, horse, foot, and dragoons, to the other, which was always ready to welcome new converts of talent and popularity. These three became, in the canvass, the champions of Democracy, and fiercely waged the war in antagonism with their former allies. In this contest were made manifest the great abilities of Colquitt, Toombs, Stephens, Cobb, and Herschel V. Johnson.
Subsequently, Colquitt was elected to the United States Senate, where he was distinguished as a debater and leading man of the Democratic party; but his talents and peculiar manner were better suited for the debates of the House of Representatives, and the hustings.
Lumpkin was ardent and persuasive. Colquitt was equally ardent, but more aggressive. Where Lumpkin solicited with a burning pathos, Colquitt demanded with the bitterest sarcasm. Lumpkin was slow and considerate; Colquitt was rapid and overwhelming. The one was the sun's soft, genial warmth; the other, the north wind's withering blast. Colquitt was remarkable for daring intrepidity; Lumpkin for collected firmness. Lumpkin persuaded; Colquitt frightened. Both were brave, but Colquitt was fiercely so. Lumpkin was mild, but determined. Unaggressive himself, the dignity and gentleness of his character repelled it in others. The consequence was, that he passed through life without strife with his fellow-man, while Colquitt was frequently in personal conflict with those as impetuous as himself. The open frankness and social nature of Colquitt won him many friends, and of that description most useful to politicians—friends who were devoted, who felt for, and preferred him to any other man. His features were versatile, and variable as an April day, betraying every emotion of his mind—especially his eyes, which were soft or fierce, as the passion of the heart sprang to view in them, and spoke his soul's sensations. His oratory was playful, awakening wild mirth in his auditors, and again it was impetuous and sarcastic, overwhelming with invective and denunciation.
Charles J. Jenkins, a compeer of Lumpkin and Colquitt, was essentially different from both in many of the features of his character. His mind was more logical, more analytical, and capable of deeper research. He had little ambition, and whenever he was before the people, it was when his friends thrust him there. The instinctive morality of his nature, like that of Lumpkin, would never permit the compromise of conscience or dignity of character so often the case with men of ardent natures and intense ambition. Eminently cool in debate, he never made any attempt at forensic display, but confined himself exclusively to the logic of his subject. He clearly saw his way, and carefully went along, spurning ornament or volubility, and only compelling into service words which clearly and succinctly conveyed his ideas, and these only elucidated the subject-matter he was discussing. Strictly honest, and equally truthful, he never deviated, under any circumstances, from what he believed his duty. Only for a short time was he in the Legislature, and then he displayed in most exciting times the great virtues of his nature.
Upon one occasion, the party with which he acted determined, to defeat a certain measure, to leave the chamber in a body, and break the quorum. It was the only means in their power to prevent a measure which they deemed wrong in principle and injurious to the public interest. Jenkins thought such extreme measures wrong, and entirely unjustifiable. Though as much opposed to the views of the majority as any member of his party, he refused to participate in their action, and was the only member of the party who persistently remained in his seat. This conduct was censured by his party friends, and he immediately resigned his seat and returned to his constituency, who, knowing and appreciating the great worth of the man, returned him at once to his seat under a new election. In all the relations of life the same traits of character have distinguished him. While at the Bar, his rank was the first; this, combined with his integrity and great firmness, made him so conspicuous before the people of the State, that he was placed on the bench of the Supreme Court—a position he distinguished by his great legal attainments, dignity, and purity.
The political opinions of Judge Jenkins were in many of their features unpopular. He was always opposed to universal suffrage, and made no secret of his sentiments. He was opposed to an elective judiciary, and to mob-rule in every shape. He despised alike the arts and the humiliation of party politicians, and was never a man to accept for public trust any man whose only recommendation to public favor was his availability, because of his popularity with the masses. He was taken from the supreme bench to fill the gubernatorial chair of the State, and no man, not even Jackson, Early, or Troup, ever more dignified this elevated position—none ever had the same trying difficulties to encounter. Chosen by the people at a period when civil war had distracted the government and uprooted all the landmarks so long the guide for those who preceded him—when a manifest determination of the so-called Congress, representing but two-thirds of the States, was apparent to usurp all power—when the State governments of ten States, though that of their people, were threatened with military usurpation, Jenkins remained firm to his convictions of duty. The credit of the State had never suffered while under his guardianship; a large amount was in her treasury; this was an objective point for the usurpers. He met the military satrap, and was assured of his intentions. Satisfied of his insincerity and dishonesty, knowing he held the power of the bayonet, and would be unscrupulous in its use, calm as a Roman senator he defied the power of this unprincipled minion of a base, corrupt, and unconstitutional power, and deliberately removed the treasure of the State, and applied it to the liquidation of her obligations. Hurled from the office bestowed by his fellow-citizens, so far as he could he protected their interests, at the hazard of the horrors of Fort Pulaski and the sweat-box—the favorite instruments of torture of this infamous defendant of an irresponsible Congress, and now for personal safety, exiled from home and country, finds protection under a foreign flag. This one act alone will be sufficient to immortalize the name of Charles J. Jenkins, and to swell with pride the heart of every true Georgian who aided to place such a man in such a position, at such a time. Governor Jenkins still lives, and if the prayers of a virtuous and oppressed people may avail on high, will be spared to reap in better days his reward in their gratitude.
An exalted intellect, unaccompanied with exalted virtue, can never constitute greatness. In whatever position placed, or whatever inducements persuade, virtue and a conscientious conviction of right must regulate the mind and conduct of man to make him great. The tortuous course of politics, made so by unprincipled men, renders the truly upright man usually a poor politician. He who possesses the capacity to discern the true interests of a country, and who will virtuously labor to secure and promote those interests, defying opposition and fearlessly braving the calumnies of interested, corrupt men, organized into parties—which so often lose sight of the interests of their country, in promoting party ends, or from inflamed passions—is the great man. He whose pedestal is virtue, and whose action is honest, secures the respect of his own age, and becomes the luminary of succeeding ages. Stern honesty often imposes unpleasant duties—strict obedience to its behests, not unfrequently involves apparent inconsistencies of conduct; but the conscientious man will disregard these in doing what his judgment determines right—the only real consistency which sustains a man in his own estimation, and leaves no bitter reflections for the future. To subserve the cause of right, is always a duty—not so the cause of party or selfish interest. All men respect the right, but many have not the virtue to resist wrong. Ambition prompts for success the expedient: and hence the laxity of political morals. This is slipping the cable that the ship may swing from her anchorage and drift with the tide; any minnow may float with the current, but it requires a strong fish to stem and progress against the stream. A man, to brave obloquy and public scorn, requires strong moral courage; but when his judgment convinces him that he is right, and when he feels that his intentions are pure, conscientious, and sincere, this may ruffle him for a time, but never permanently disturbs his peace or injures his reputation. The truly great are only known by nobly resisting every temptation to wrong, and braving the world's condemnation in pursuing and sustaining the right. It is the soul to which greatness belongs, not the mind. This latter is too often, in its transcendent greatness, coupled with a mean and degraded soul, which stimulates the mind's power to the corruption of the masses, and the destruction of public morals, undermining the very basis of society and government.
The combination of a great mind and a great soul constitutes the truly great, and the life of such a man creates a public sentiment which, like an intense essence, permeates all it touches, leaving its fragrance upon all. Such a man was George M. Troup, such a man is Charles J. Jenkins; and the incense of his character will be a fragrance purifying and delighting the land when he shall have passed away. The exalted abilities of his mind, the great purity of his heart, the noble elevation of his sentiments, and his exquisite conscientiousness, will be an honor and an example to be remembered and emulated by the coming generations of his native land.
A REVOLUTIONARY VETERAN.
TAPPING REEVE—JAMES GOULD—COLONEL BENJAMIN TALMADGE—THE EXECUTION OF MAJOR ANDRE—CHARACTER OF WASHINGTON—A BREACH OF DISCIPLINE—BURR AND HAMILTON—MARGARET MONCRIEF—COWLES MEADE.
Fifty years ago, the only law-school in the United States was taught by Tapping Reeve and James Gould, at Litchfield, Connecticut. The young men of the South, destined for the profession of law, usually commenced their studies in the office of some eminent practitioner at home, and, after a year or so spent in reading the elementary authors, they finished by attending the lectures at this school. A course of lectures occupied a year. Then they were considered prepared to commence the practice.
Many of the young men of Georgia, at that day, received their education at the North. Most of those who selected law as a profession, finished at the school in Litchfield. Few remain in life at this day who graduated there. Thomas Flornoy and Nicholas Ware were among the first, who read law there, who were natives of Georgia. William Cumming succeeded them. Then followed L.Q.C. Lamar, William C. Dawson, Thaddeus Goode Holt, and many others of less distinction, all of whom are gone save Judge Holt, who remains a monument and a memory of the class and character of the Bar of Georgia fifty years ago, when talent and unspotted integrity characterized its members universally, and when the private lives and public conduct of lawyers were a withering rebuke to the reiterated slanders upon the profession—when Crawford, Berrien, Harris, Cobb, Longstreet, the brothers Campbell, and a host of others, shed lustre upon it.
1820 was spent by the writer at the law-school at Litchfield, in company with William Crawford Banks, Hopkins Holsey, Samuel W. Oliver, and James Clark, from Georgia. All are in the grave except Clark, who, like the writer, lives in withered age. His career has been a successful and honorable one, and I trust a happy one.
During this probation it was my fortune to form many acquaintances among the young and the old whom I met there, and from them to learn much, especially from the old. At that time there resided in the pleasant little village, Governor Oliver Wolcott, Benjamin Talmadge, and my distinguished preceptors, Tapping Reeve and James Gould.
Colonel Benjamin Talmadge was a distinguished officer in the American army of the Revolution, and was a favorite aide of Washington. It was he who was charged with the painful duty of superintending the execution of Major Andre, who suffered as a spy. He was a tall, venerable man, and though cumbered with years, when I knew him, was active and energetic in attending to his business. The first time I ever met him, he was standing in front of his yard-gate, shaping a gate-pin with a small hatchet, which he used as a knife, to reduce it to the desired size and form. One end he held in his left hand; the other he rested against the trunk of a sycamore-tree, which grew near by and shaded the sidewalk. I knew his character and his services. As I approached him, my feelings were sublimated with the presence of a man who had been the aide to and confidant of George Washington. He was neatly attired in gray small-clothes. His white hair was carefully combed over the bald portion of his head, as, hatless, he pursued his work. His position was fronting me, and I caught his brilliant gray eyes as he looked up from his work to know who was passing. Involuntarily I stopped, and, lifting my hat from my head, bowed respectfully to him, and passed him uncovered, as he returned my salutation with that ease and dignity characteristic of the gentleman of the old school. To-day that towering, manly form is present to my view, as it stood before me then. He inquired of Judge Gould, his immediate neighbor, who I was, and was pleased to mention my respectful demeanor toward him. My reply, when told of this, was: "I should have despised myself, could I have acted otherwise toward one so eminent, and who was the confidential friend of Washington." This was reported to the venerable colonel, who showed his appreciation of my conduct by extending to me many kindnesses during my stay in the village.
By his own hearth-stone I have listened with eager interest to the narration of Andre's capture and execution. He was opposed, with Alexander Hamilton, to the hanging of Andre, and always contended that it was not clearly established that he had come into the American lines as a spy. Andre, when captured, wore his uniform under an overcoat, which concealed it, and the papers found on his person only proved that he sought to deliver them to Arnold. The day before his execution he solemnly declared his only object was an interview with Arnold, or, should he fail in this, to contrive to send him the papers which had been found upon him. When he knew the commander-in-chief had refused him clemency, through Colonel Talmadge he appealed to Washington to let him be shot, and die a soldier's death—not to permit him to perish as a felon upon the gallows. Colonel Talmadge, when he stated this wish to him, assured him it would be granted. Every effort was made, by his officers and aides, to induce the granting of the request, but in vain. "And never in my life," said Colonel Talmadge, "have I had imposed upon me so painful a duty as communicating this fact to the young and gallant officer. He saw my embarrassment and feelings, and, rising from his seat, said: 'Colonel, I thank you for the generous interest you have taken in my case. It has proved of no avail; yet I am none the less grateful.' He paused a moment, when he continued: 'It is hard to die, and to die thus. My time is short, and I must employ it in writing to my family, and must request that you will see my letters forwarded to headquarters.' I promised; when he extended his hand, and, grasping mine, asked: 'Is this our last parting, or shall I see you to-morrow?' I told him it had been made my duty to superintend his execution. 'We will part at the grave,' he said, and, covering his face with his hands, sank, sobbing, into his chair.
"I went away sorrowing, and spent a sleepless night. When the hour had arrived, I waited on him in his prison, and found him cool and prepared for the sacrifice. We both felt too much for words, and there was little said. I remember he asked me to procure his watch, which had been taken from him, if possible, and send it to headquarters. He desired his family to have it."
"Did you ever get it?" I asked.
The colonel bit his lip in shame for him who had it, and only answered: "Never."
"The grave was prepared near the gallows, and the open coffin was by it. As Andre approached, he saw it, and a shudder ran through his frame. Turning to me, he said: 'I am to be buried there. One more request, colonel. Mark it; so that when this cruel conflict shall have ended, my friends may find it!' He then shook hands with me, and, with unfaltering steps, went to the scaffold."
I heard this narrative many times, and with its ending the white kerchief about the old man's neck was loosed, and the moisture from his eyes told that the feelings as well as the memory of that day still survived. He would a moment after continue: "Washington was a stern man—he was a hard man—slow to form opinions or resolutions; but once formed, there was no power under heaven to move him. He never formed either until his judgment was convinced of the right. There was less of impulse in his nature than in that of any man I ever knew. I served by his side for years, and I never saw the least manifestation of passion or surprise. He received the information of Arnold's treachery with the same apparent indifference that he would an orderly's report; and with the same indifference of manner signed the death-warrant of Andre.
"This indifference was marked with a natural sternness, which forbid all familiarity to all men. Even Colonel Hamilton, who was naturally facetious, never ventured, during his long service, the slightest intimacy. Hamilton, whom he esteemed above all men, and to whom he gave his entire confidence, always observed in his private intercourse, as in his public, the strictest etiquette. This cool sternness was natural to him, and its influence was overwhelming. The humblest and the highest felt it alike; inspiring a respectful awe, commanding a dignified demeanor. He was best beloved at a distance, because the qualities of the man were only present, and these were purer and more lofty than those given to any other man. There is no character of ancient or modern times so consistent as that of Washington. He was always cool, always slow, always sincere. There is no act of his life evincing the influence of prejudice. He decided all matters upon evidence, and the unbiased character of his mind enabled him impartially to weigh this evidence, and the great strength of his judgment to analyze and apply it. He seemed to understand men instinctively, and if he was ever deceived in any of those in close association with him, it was Tom Jefferson. Burr had not been on his staff ten days before he understood him perfectly, and he very soon got rid of him. Of all the officers of the Continental army, General Greene was his favorite; and he was right, for Greene was a great military man—far superior to Washington himself, and none knew it better than he. I remember to have heard him say that Greene was the only man in the army who could retrieve the mistakes of Gates and save the Southern country. The result verified the statement.
"Washington's lenity never extended to the excusing of any palpable neglect of duty. The strict regularity of his own private character was carried into everything connected with his public duties. However much he esteemed any man, it was for his worth in his especial position, and not because of any peculiarity of bearing or properties of heart. That he appreciated the higher qualities of the heart, is certainly true—but for what they were worth always—and neither quality of head or heart created a prejudice which would lead him to excuse any neglect of duty or laxity of morals. He was not without heart, but it was slow to be moved, and never so moved as to warp or obscure his judgment, or influence the discharge of his duty.
"Mrs. Washington was less amiable than her husband, and at times would sadly tax his patience—she never forgot that she was wealthy when she married him, and would sometimes allude to it in no very pleasant manner to her husband; who, notwithstanding, bore with her with remarkable patience. I do not remember ever to have seen General Washington laugh; sometimes a faint smile would tinge his features; but very soon they returned to the sedateness and gravity of expression common to them; and though they rarely brightened with a smile, they were never deformed with a frown. There was in their expression a fixity indicative of his character, a purpose settled and unalterable. Of all the men I have ever known, Washington was the only one who never descended from the stilts of his dignity, or relaxed the austerity of his bearing. It has been said that he swore at General Charles Lee at the battle of Brandywine—I could never have it authenticated. He asked excitedly of General Lee, by what ill-timed mistake the disaster had occurred, which was forcing his retreat. Lee was a passionate, bad man, and disliked to serve under Washington's command. He had served with distinction in the British army in Europe, and felt, in adopting the cause of the colonies, he should have been proffered the chief command. There had been an intrigue at Philadelphia, headed by Dr. Rush, aided by others, to prejudice Congress against the commander-in-chief, to have him displaced, that Lee might succeed him. If Washington was aware of this, it never escaped him to any of his military family; and certainly never influenced his conduct toward Lee—for he had confidence in his military abilities, and always gave him the position where the most honor was to be won. Lee's reply to Washington was violent, profane, and insolent. He said to General Lafayette that his reply was: 'No man can boast of possessing more of that damned rascally virtue than yourself.' He was arrested, court-martialed, and by its decision, suspended for one year from command. He never returned to the service, but retired to the interior of Virginia, and lived in great seclusion until his death.
"Toward the young officers Washington was more indulgent than to the older and more experienced. He would not see the smaller improprieties of conduct in these, unless brought officially to his notice. Then they were uniformly punished. He frequently counselled and advised them, but was ever severe toward intemperance, with old and young.
"Upon one occasion, a certain Maryland colonel came suddenly and quite unexpectedly upon the General, who was taking a walk. The colonel attempted to salute, but in doing so, disclosed his inebriety. 'You are intoxicated, sir,' said the General, with a humorous twinkle of the eye. The colonel replied: 'I am glad you informed me, General; I will go to my quarters before I make an ass of myself;' turned and walked away. Without the slightest movement of feature the General continued his walk. Nothing more was heard of it until the battle of Monmouth, in which the colonel distinguished himself. The day after, in going the grand-rounds, he approached the colonel, and remarked: 'Your gallantry of yesterday excuses your late breach of discipline;' and saluting him, passed on.
"In a conversation over the mess-table, at West Point, some severe remarks upon the conduct of Washington, in hanging Andre, escaped Hamilton. He said, warmly, that it was cruelly unjust, and would assuredly sully the future fame of the General; that he felt aggrieved that the ardent solicitations of his staff, and most of the field-officers, in the unfortunate young man's behalf, had been so little regarded. These remarks reached the ears of the General. We were not aware of this, until some weeks subsequently he summoned his staff to his presence, and stated the fact.
"'You will remember, gentlemen, that Captain Asgill, who was a prisoner, and sentenced, by lot, to die, in retaliation for the coldblooded murder of Captain Hale, by the orders of a British officer. You, and many of the officers of the army, interceded to save his life. His execution was, in consequence, respited. The heart-rending appeal of his mother and sisters, communicated to me in letters from those high-bred and accomplished women, determined me to lenity in his case, and he was pardoned. Immediately upon the heels of this pardon comes an intrigue to seduce from his duty and allegiance a major-general, distinguished for services and capacity; and Major Andre is the instrument to carry out this intrigue—to communicate their plans to the traitor, and to consummate the arrangement. These plans were to seize, treacherously, the person of the general commanding the American forces, and carry him a prisoner to the enemy's headquarters. Lenity to this man would have been a high crime against Congress, the army, and the country, which could not have been justified. I regretted the necessity as much as any of you; but mine was the responsibility, not yours. Its being a painful duty did not make it less a duty. Not mine alone, but the safety of the army depended upon the discharge of this duty—a duty recognized by all nations in civilized warfare. I felt it such; I discharged it, and am satisfied with it. I hope I am superior to any apprehension of future censure for a faithful discharge of an imperative duty.' Waving his hand, he bade us 'Good evening.'
"General Washington, upon all important movements, sought the opinions of his staff, as well as those of the general officers of his command. This was not for want of reliance upon his own judgment, but from a desire to see the matter through every light in which it could be presented. These opinions were not unfrequently asked in writing. They were always carefully studied, and due weight given to them, especially when they differed from his own. His mind was eminently analytical, and always free from prejudice, and to these facts is to be attributed the almost universal correctness of his judgment upon all subjects which he had examined. With regard to men, I never knew him to ask another's opinion; nor was he ever the man to give utterance to his own, unless it became necessary as a duty. I knew, from the time I entered his military family, of his high appreciation of Hamilton's abilities; and the frequent concurrence of opinion between them sometimes (and especially with those not entirely acquainted with him) induced a belief that Hamilton formed his opinions, or, as Arnold once expressed it, was his thinker. Yet there were many occasions upon which they differed, and widely differed; and never did Washington surrender his own opinion and adopt that of Hamilton. I never thought the feelings of Washington toward him were more than respect for his exalted abilities. I do not believe a kinder or more social attachment ever was felt by him, and I am positively sure these were the feelings of Hamilton for Washington.
"His respect for the abilities of Colonel Burr was quite as exalted as for those of Hamilton; but he had no confidence in his honesty or truth, and, consequently, very soon got rid of him. Burr's liaison with Margaret Moncrief destroyed entirely the little regard left for him in the mind of Washington. I asked Colonel Talmadge if Burr and Hamilton ever were friends. They were very close friends apparently; but it was palpable that each entertained a jealousy of the other, however much they strove to conceal it. They were both ambitious, and felt the way to preferment was through the favor of the commander-in-chief. Burr was the more sensitive and the more impulsive of the two. They knew the abilities of each other, and they knew these were highly appreciated by the General; and at the moment when this jealousy was likely to interfere with this friendship, Burr left the position of aide to the General. He knew he had forfeited the confidence of Washington, and he figured in the army very little after this. The rivalry, however, did not cease here, nor did the secret enmity in their hearts die. The world is not aware of the true cause of the hatred between them, and it may never be.
"You are aware," continued the colonel, "that your preceptor, Judge Reeve, is the brother-in-law of Colonel Burr. If I speak freely of him, it is because I know him, and because you seem curious to pry into these secret histories of national men. It is not to be repeated to offend Judge Reeve, or disturb our relations as friends; for we are such, and have been for fifty years.
"Colonel Burr has ever been remarkable for abilities from his boyhood. Reeve and the celebrated Samuel Lathrop Mitchell were his classmates, and agree that he had no equal in college. They were educated at Princeton. Burr showed not only talent, but application, and a most burning ambition. He showed, too, that he was already unscrupulous in the use of means to accomplish his object. There are stories told of his college-life very discreditable to his fame. He was as remarkable in his features as in his mind. His capacious forehead, aquiline nose, and piercingly brilliant eyes, black as night, with a large, flexible mouth, Grecian in form, made him extremely handsome as a youth. His manners were natural and elegant, and his conversational powers unequalled. They are so to-day. Think of these gifts in a man uninfluenced by principle, and only obedient to the warmer passions. He ever shunned collective society, and seemed (for the time, at least) totally absorbed by one or two only. The eloquence of manner, as the persuasion of words, was in him transcendent. The whispered sophisms of his genius burned into the heart, and it was remarked of him, by one wise and discreet, that he could, in fewer words, win the sympathy and start to tears a female auditor, than any preacher in the land. From boyhood he seemed to have the key to every heart he desired to unlock. Fatal gift! and terribly fatal did it prove to many a victim, and especially to that gifted but frail girl—Margaret Moncrief.
"Margaret Moncrief was the daughter of an officer of the British army, and had been left with that old veteran, Putnam, after this officer was a prisoner of war. Hamilton formed an attachment for her, and Burr, more from vanity than any other feeling, determined to win her away from him. She was, for her sex, as remarkable as Burr for his; her education was very superior, her reading as extensive as most professional men, and entirely out of the line of ordinary female reading; she was familiar with the entire range of science—her person in form was perfect, in features exquisitely beautiful. She, too, possessed the art to steal away the affections of any one around whom she threw her spell. Apparently unconscious of her natural gifts, she displayed them without reserve, and so artlessly, as to lure and beguile almost to frenzy such temperaments as those of Burr and Hamilton. Never before had Burr met his equal, and his vanity and ambition were equally stimulated to triumph in her conquest, and ere he was aware of it, what had been commenced in levity, had become a passion which held him in chains. The sequel was the ruin of both. Here commenced the heart-hatred which terminated in the duel and the death of Hamilton.
"I know there was a romantic story, that gained credit with many, that the influence of Miss Moncrief had corrupted Burr, and that she was acting as a spy, and from Burr obtained all the information she desired of the movements of the American army. Such was the credit attached to this story, that General Putnam was questioned rather closely on the subject of the intercourse between them. It was his opinion that it was without foundation, and that it was simply a love affair. It was also stated, and this Hamilton credited, that Burr was preparing to leave the country with the lady, and there were some circumstances which seemed to warrant such suspicion. To this day, there are ladies who were at that time in communication with Miss Moncrief, who mention that every preparation had been made, that her wardrobe had been removed from her apartment, and that it was carried to those of Colonel Burr, and that they had been turned back in the harbor by a sentry-boat, when striving with a solitary oarsman to reach a British man-of-war, in the lower harbor of the bay of New York. There was never any proof of this, however, and I imagine it was only a gossiping story of Madame Rumor.
"Of the sincerity of the attachment on the part of the lady, her subsequent confessions are the only proof; and at the time of making these confessions, such was her position that little credit could be given them. But that Colonel Burr was ever seriously attached to her, those who knew him best scarcely believed. Men of his character rarely, if ever, have serious and sincere attachment for any woman. To gratify his vanity he would court the affections of any woman whose beauty and accomplishments had attracted him. It was always for base purposes Burr professed love. Such men too frequently win upon the regards of women, and occupy high and enviable positions in female society; but their love is diffusive, and for the individual only for a time. In truth, they are incapable of a deep and sincere affection. The suspicion of woman's purity forbids an abiding love; it is a momentary passion, and not an elevated and enduring sentiment—not the embalming with the heart's riches a pure and innocent being who yields everything to love.
"Colonel Burr was an indifferent husband toward one of the most accomplished and lovable women I ever knew, and who was devoted to him, and whose heart he broke. She was the widow of a British officer named Provost, I believe, who died in the West Indies; and a more deserving woman, or one more lovely, never went to the arms of a roue, to be kissed and killed.
"Burr hated Washington, and united himself politically with his enemies. There was a close political intimacy between him and Jefferson, but never anything like confidence. In their party they were rivals; and after the election which made Jefferson President, there was no semblance of intimacy or friendship between them.
"Burr believed he was really elected President, and that Jefferson had defrauded him in the count of the ballots. He was disappointed and dissatisfied with his position and with his party, and immediately commenced an intrigue to separate the Western States from the Union, and on the west of the mountains and along the waters of the Mississippi to establish a separate government, where he hoped to fill the measure of his ambition, and destroy the power of the Union—thus at the same time to crush both the Federal and Republican parties, for now he hated both alike.
"Hamilton had been his early rival; he had, as he believed, destroyed him with Washington, and that he had been mainly instrumental in defeating him with Jefferson for the Presidency. There can be no doubt of the fact, that Jefferson had been voted for by the colleges for President, and Burr for Vice-President; but they were not so designated on the ballots. They received an equal number of votes, and had to be elected, owing to a defect in the law at that time, by the House. The balloting continued several days. There were sixteen States, and each received eight. Jefferson was especially obnoxious to the hatred of the Federal party; Burr, though belonging to the Republican party, less so; and many of the leading men in Congress of the Federal party determined to take Burr in preference. The strength of this party was mainly in the North, and Burr was a Northern man; and they felt more might be expected of him, from Northern interest, than from Jefferson. But the main cause of the effort was the animosity to Jefferson. Washington was viewed as the representative man of the Federal party. Jefferson, though he had been a Cabinet minister in his Administration, had made no secret of his opposition to the views of Washington; and had aided a clerk in his department to establish a newspaper, especially to attack Washington, and to oppose the Administration, which he did, in the most bitter and offensive manner.
"Jefferson was an unscrupulous man—a man of wonderful intellect and vast attainments, but entirely unprincipled. This editor and clerk of Jefferson's, sent daily to the President two copies of his paper, filled with the vilest abuse of him personally, and of his Administration. Much of this was, doubtless, written by Jefferson himself. This supposition is the more to be relied on from the fact that Washington remonstrated with Jefferson upon the matter, and requested the removal of the offending clerk, which was refused by Jefferson. His declining to remove Jefferson himself, is conclusive of the considerate forbearance of this truly great man. These were reasons operating upon the minds and feelings of those men who had not only sustained Washington through the Revolution, but had stood to the support of his Administration, and who concurred with him in political opinion and principle.
"Mr. Adams had made this party unpopular by the course pursued by him in conducting the Government. The Alien Law, and the Sedition Law, which obtained his signature, (though I know he was opposed personally to both,) and the prosecutions which arose, especially under the latter, were very offensive, and entirely at variance with the spirit of our people, and indeed of the age, and had so damaged the Federal party, as to render it odious to a large majority of the people.
"The more considerate of the party believed in the election of Burr—the Southern and Northern Democracy would become divided. Jefferson was known to be specially the favorite of this party, South, and would naturally oppose, himself, and lead his party in opposition to the Administration of Burr, and the Federal party, uniting in his support, with the Republicans, North, would ultimately succeed in recovering the control of the Government. During the ballotings this was fully discussed in the secret meetings of the Federalists. The balloting continued from the 11th to the 17th of February, and only eight States could be carried for Mr. Jefferson, six for Burr, and two were divided. It was supposed Hamilton's influence would be given to Burr, and he was sent for, but to the astonishment of his political friends, it was thrown in opposition to Burr. This influenced those controlling the vote of the divided States. Burr had entered heartily into the scheme of defeating Jefferson. Had Hamilton co-operated with his party, there is now no telling what might have been the future political destiny of the country. Burr was sworn in as Vice-President, and there is no doubt but that the will of the people was substantially carried out.
"The restlessness of Burr was manifested; he seemed to retire from the active participation in politics which had previously been his habit—still, however, adhering to the Republican party, and opposing strenuously every view or opinion advanced by Hamilton. Burr did not take his seat as presiding officer of the Senate, and in February, after the election of Jefferson, Hillhouse was chosen to fill his place pro tem. After the inauguration of Jefferson, Abraham Baldwin was elected to preside as President pro tem. of the Senate. It had not then become the habit of the Vice-President to preside over the Senate; nor was it the custom for the Vice-President to remain at the seat of Government during the sessions of Congress. Burr, disgusted with the Republican party, ceased to act with it, and went to New York. Here he resumed the practice of law. He was never considered a deeply read lawyer, nor was he comparable with his rival, Hamilton, in debate, or as an advocate at the Bar. He was adroit and quick, and was rather a quibbler than a great lawyer.
"You ask me if I thought, or think, he ever deserted the Republican party in heart? I answer, no; for I do not think he ever had any well-defined political or moral principle, and was influenced always by what he deemed would subserve his own ambitious views; and you ask me, if I ever thought him a great man? Men greatly differ, as you will find as you grow older, and become better acquainted with mankind, as to what constitutes a great man. I think Colonel Burr's talents were eminently military, and he might, in command, have shown himself a great general. His mind was sufficiently strong to make him respectable in any profession he might have chosen; but his proclivity, mentally, was for arms—he loved to direct and control. In very early life he showed much skill and tact as an officer in the Canadian campaign; but he wanted those moral traits which give dignity and decision to character, and confidence to the public mind. His vacillation of opinion, as well as of conduct, was convincing proof that he acted without principle, and was influenced by his own selfish views. Man, to be great, must act always from principle. Principle, like truth, is a straight edge, will admit of no obliquity, is always the same, and under all circumstances: conduct squared by principle, and sustained by truth, inspires respect and confidence, and these attributes, though they may and do belong to very ordinary minds, are nevertheless great essentials to the most powerful in making greatness. Great grasp of intellect, fixity of purpose, strong will, high aims, and incorruptible moral purity, make a great man. They are rare combinations, but they are sometimes found in one man—they certainly were not in Colonel Burr. A great general, a great statesman, a, great poet, a great astronomer, may be without morals; and he is consequently not a great man. My young friend, a great man is the rarest creation of Almighty God. Time has produced few. Washington, perhaps, approaches the standard nearest, of modern men; but he was selfish to some extent.
"After Colonel Burr's return to New York, he was nominated by the Federal party for Governor of the State; this was the first open announcement of his having deserted the Republican party. Hamilton threw all his influence against him, and he was defeated. This defeat sublimated his hatred for Hamilton. He made an excuse of certain words Hamilton had used in relation to him for challenging him. They met, and Hamilton fell. The death of Hamilton overthrew the little remaining popularity left to Burr. The nation, the world, turned upon him, and he became desperate.