« ZurückWeiter »
Administration of Mr. Buchanan and by the repeated expressions of his determination that the rights of the Southern people should be sustained. [Great sensation.]
He was the most suggestive man I ever knew. A subject difficult to others he made plain and clear. To an editor he was an exhaustless mine of original thought, and many an article for which I received credit was but a tame elaboration of an idea he had presented to me. He did not save and hide his impressions. Profuse as he was of his money he was even more profuse of his brains. He seemed to think when he gave so generously of the one, that it was enduring as the other. Some statesmen hoard up their ideas as a miser hoards his gold, making them common only when they know the return must add to their own fame. Not so with him. He loved to enrich others with the gems and jewels of his own mental storehouse; and nothing delighted him more than to see them praised for that which he had produced. He was self-reliant. Few men have relied so little
othIn debate, he was a match for the greatest, and as against a number he was like a lion at bay. [Applause.] When his adversaries surrounded him, and their blows were rained fast and thick upon him, he never retreated, but planting himself upon his principles, challenged universal admiration by the rapidity of his movements, the fertility of his invention, the readiness of his replies, and the preëminent courtesy of his language and his bearing. Many instances of this occur to my mind—one during the historical debate on the night previous to the passage of the Kansas and Nebraska bill in the Senate, when, for three hours, he maintained his position against a host of opponents. Mr. Seward, with his characteristic frankness, could not resist the expression of his feelings during that debate, when he assured the Senator from Illinois that he had never admired him more than during that contest. “Sir,” said Mr. Douglas, “I know how to command the respect and the praise of the Senator from New York.”
He rarely or never quoted poetry. He had little taste for the music of the schools, but he was singularly alive to poetry when read by others, and had his own favorite airs which he loved to listen to and linger over. I have heard him narrate incidents of his own life and of the lives of others which abounded in the most exquisite and pathetic touches. His journey through Russia ; his reception by the old Emperor previous to his death ; his conversation with the Empress Eugénie; his presence at one of the Greek Islands when he received the news of the arrest of Koszta by Captain Ingraham ; the effect produced upon his imagination by London and Paris, were described with a grace and a spirit that alternately recalled the delightful diction of Irving, and the stately style of Macauley. [Applause.] This may be called extravagant praise by those only who have read the direct and unadorned logic of his Congressional efforts; but it will be endorsed by all who have sat at his side when, in some genial hour, he threw off those original impressions from his mind—leaves as it were, from that great machine which, though constantly at work, seemed never to tire.
His humor was intuitive. Never indulging in vulgar wit, he was so prompt in repartee, so apt in discovering the weak points of his adversary, and, withal, so generally careful to avoid offence, that in the hottest controversy he turned the laugh upon his opponent, and compelled him to yield to the general contagion.
This man, who thought so profoundly and was ever ready in a crisis, was a man of the greatest leisure. He was frequently in society. He delighted to mingle with the gay and the gifted, and was the soul of every social circle. Those who saw him at a reception or a levee were surprised to find him in the Senate next morning, as ready for business as if he had given the whole of the previous night to reading and reflection.
Nobody ever knew when he did read, and yet he referred to volume, page, and date, with a quick correctness that surprised all. He would loiter in the Senate, converse with the ladies in the galleries, talk with the politicians, smoke his cigar with his friends, and all this time apparently indifferent to the discussion going on in the body itself, and when least expected would plunge into the billows of the debate, dashing every obstacle aside, and generally coming out the victor. [Great applause.] He was great in the parliamentary skirmish, but he was greater in the protracted battle. His small arms were effective, but his Dahlgrens were terrible. [Applause.] He would laugh through or fight through a contest, precisely as circumstances required. His short speeches reminded us of John Forsyth, in his best days; but when he planted himself for an elaborate discussion, he displayed wonderful patience and endurance. Thus, he could play the part of a leader in a sudden dash, or in a long siege, with equal success.
Death has been busy with the noble little Congressional band that refused to respond to the exactions of the Disunionists on the Kansas question nearly four years ago. The first called was that type of the gentleman, the soldier, and the statesman, Thomas L. Harris, of Illinois. I think I can see his pale face and flashing eye now as he almost staggered, stricken with wasting disease, to his seat in the Hall of the House of Representatives. I can almost hear his manly voice protesting against the wrong under which a great party reeled to its lasting overthrow. He lived long enough to prove his more than human courage, and left us just before his repeated prophecies came near their fulfilment. The next summoned to the eternal bar was David C. Broderick, of California. God had stamped him for a leader. Too virtuous to be bribed, too fearless to falter, too disinterested to be corruptly ambitious, he sleeps on the breezy hills that overlook the proud metropolis of his adopted State, within the sound of the anthem of the sea, surrounded by a population who loved him living and mourn him dead. [Applause.] Slaughtered for his opinions, deliberately marked out for sacrifice, his farewell words were a sad presage to the events of which his death was the equally sad beginning:
They have killed me because I was opposed to the extension of Slavery and a corrupt Administration."
And then, saddest loss of all, comes the death of the man, who, however criticised during his eventful struggle with Power, was the leader of the most heroic, disinterested protest against political crime in high places our New World has ever known. The men engaged with Douglas, in this protest, were Democrats whose whole experience had been that of close relationship with Southern statesmen, and that of earnest devotion to Southern rights. When they took up arms against their party organization, it was not without reluctance. When they arrayed themselves against an Administration new in office, and in the full possession of undisposed-of patronage, they did not do so without counting the cost of the experiment. They were reminded of others, in by-gone days, who had grappled with power and had fallen under its severe displeasure; but they were men of iron nerve and conscientious convictions. They felt that, whatever might happen to them, the truths they advocated must triumph, and so they persevered till the whole work of destiny was completed. [Applause.]
The three characters alluded to, were characters of extraordinary endurance, fitted to give counsel to common party lead
ers—created for the bitterest responsibilities of the scenes in which they lived. They began their movement full of determination—they closed their connection with it by offering their lives as an evidence of their sincerity.
I am not accustomed to the habit of studied eulogy. Realizing, profoundly, the loss of our great national leader, who fell in the prime of life, and at a moment when he would have been most effective to defend the Administration of the general Government against the attacks of secret and of open enemies, and, with no disposition to invade the sanctity of that home of which he was the household god, I can only repeat, in conclusion, the appropriate lines of Walter Scott:
“He is gone on the mountain,
He is lost to the forest,
When our need was the sorest.
From the rain drops shall borrow,
No Douglas to-morrow.
6. The hand of the reaper
Takes the ears that are hoary,
Wails manhood in glory.
Waft the leaves that are searest,
When blighting was nearest.
“ Fleet foot on the correi,
Sage counsel in cumber,
How sound is thy slumber!
Like the foam on the river,
Thou art gone, and forever!”