Page images
PDF
EPUB

been inadvertently done, and through unfavorable circumstances. Many would doubtless tell how confidently they predicted the result. I could tell them, if they were right in that it was not because they were not wrong in the premises. It resulted from circumstances which they could not possibly have taken into account, and the existence of which I did not know. Severe suffering and disappointment have taught me caution, and it is hardly likely that I shall be [illegible] again, unless circumstances over which I have no control occasion it.”

He had his way, and for a time took lessons in elocution three hours daily. The improvement of his health was young Tilden's chief motive in going to New York, and constituted his chief preoccupation there. Soon after his arrival, he made the acquaintance of a Mr. Halstead, a law bookseller, and an enthusiastic apostle of a system of manipulating the stomach in a certain class of diseases. It seems to have been a germ of the modern treatment by massage. A gambling sort of faith in drugs, too, had already become so confirmed in him that it was not shaken by more than fifty years' subsequent experience of their ravages upon his constitution.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

I passed a very good day yesterday,” he wrote June 13, 1832, " better than any before since I have been here, and feel as well to-day. I have experienced two or three relapses for the last two or three weeks, occasioned, I suspect, by an accumulation of bile.

"I would use faithfully all the means which Mr. Halstead recommends for stimulating the stomach and diet, but yet would be constantly distressed.

I found soda to be the best immediate remedy, tho' not as efficient as for acidity of the stomach. I hope to avoid another recurrence of this state of things by yet stricter attention to my diet and the use of Mead's pills. If, however, these means fail (as it is quite probable they may), I shall, upon satisfying myself as to the cause of the difficulty, resort to some cathartic which has an immediate action upon the liver.

"Mr. Halstead has been absent more than a week. He

was expected to return last evening. I shall go and see him and get his advice in this matter.

* P.S. – I have seen Halstead, and by his advice shall take a dose of senna and (illegible]. I have no doubt but that my not improving fast has been owing to the want of something of this kind, for whenever I have taken pills I have been better. I will let you know what is the effect. I shall see him again when I return, and perhaps conclude to take the pills.

"I have just been to the Courier and Enquirer' office, and read upon their bulletin that Earl Grey, with some others of the ministry, have resigned in consequence of the refusal of the king to create peers. A meeting of three hundred thousand has been held in Birmingham which resolved not to pay taxes, and recommend to refuse supplies, and the 'Times' says there must be a reform or revolution.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Mr. Tilden in the latter years of his life loved to recall the fact that in one of his quasi medical visits to Mr. Halstead's bookstore he met and was presented to Chancellor Kent, with whom he had a half-hour's conversation and the honor, before they separated, of hearing the chancellor read to him his final preface to his " Commentaries." In reply to some remark of Tilden's, the old gentleman said, "The Commentaries' shall stand as I now leave them, Notes perhaps, but the text is settled.”

Not many days after the last-cited letter was written, Tilden returned to New Lebanon, where, in a desultory and not very satisfactory way, he prosecuted his studies preparatory to entering college. While he did not neglect his Latin and Greek, which required most of his attention, he took a keen interest in the political questions which were always engrossing topics at the Tilden fireside, but never more so, perhaps, than at the time of his return. The presidential election was approaching. General Jackson was a candidate for reëlection, with their friend and neighbor Van Buren on the same ticket for the vice-presidency.

а

William L. Marcy was the regency candidate for governor of New York.

A coalition was threatened between the National Republicans, who subsequently took the name of Whigs, and Anti-Masons, a party which had been recently born of the excitement produced by the alleged abduction and murder of William Morgan, of Batavia, in September, 1826, for having revealed the secrets of the Masonic society. The success of the Democratic ticket was supposed to depend upon the defeat of this coalition.

One of Samuel's uncles was visiting the family at this time. His mode of treating this crisis especially impressed his thoughtful nephew. He was heard one day to express his regret that he could not put what he thought and felt in writing. For several days after this remark was made, the family saw very little of Samuel, and when they did he seemed absorbed with his own meditations. At length he came to his father with a large roll of manuscript, to which he asked him to listen. The father listened with attention and with satisfaction. Too cautious and distrustful of his own judgment to express all the pride he felt in the performance, he proposed that they should go over to Lebanon Springs, where Mr. Van Buren chanced to be then staying, to see how the paper would impress him. Mr. Van Buren thought well enough of it to suggest that it be signed by a dozen or so of leading Democrats and published in the

Argus,” then under the editorship of Edwin Croswell, and the "organ” of the Democratic party of New York. In a few days Tilden was not a little intoxicated with the glory of seeing half a page of the " Argus” devoted to his address, and still more, a day or two later, to see it attributed in the “ Albany Evening Journal ” to the pen of Mr. Van Buren.

This incident led to a life-long intimacy between Mr. Van Buren and his young friend, of a most confidential character. From that time forth Mr. Van Buren rarely

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

made any important communication to the public which he did not submit to Mr. Tilden for his criticism, or took any step of political importance about which he did not seek his advice. Nor were these confidences confined to public affairs. In Mr. Van Buren’s will, which was drawn by the late Benjamin F. Butler, Mr. Tilden had been named, without his knowledge, the trustee for the execution of several trusts in the interest of his grandchildren. In 1859 the ex-President, then living in retirement at Lindewald, sent a request to Mr. Tilden to come up to see him on a matter of personal concern to himself. It proved that he wished to consult him about his will. In the course of their conversation the fact was disclosed that Mr. Van Buren had tied up his property in a variety of trusts, to guard more securely the interests of his grandchildren. After a night's reflection upon the subject, Mr. Tilden advised him that it was scarcely worth while for a man of his age — the exPresident was then about eighty — to presume to be wiser than events, or to indulge the hope of reversing the order of nature by attempting to make his children dependent on his grandchildren. Not many days after Mr. Tilden's return to his home in New York, Mr. Van Buren wrote that, as the result of much thought about what Mr. Tilden had said to him, he had decided to strike all the trusts out of his will. He at the same time enclosed for revision a skeleton of a will which distributed his estate in the most simple and direct manner.

A bill for the recharter of the United States Bank had been introduced into Congress, and passed by both Houses by strong majorities, at a late period of the session of 1831-2. It was returned a few days afterwards by President Jackson, with his reasons for declining to approve of it. The charter did not expire until 1836; but as the President's views were known to be unfriendly to a renewal of the charter, and as he was to be a candidate for reëlection in the fall of 1832, the friends of the bank had introduced their bill thus early to deter the President from vetoing it, or, failing in this, to have his vote to be used against him in the canvass.

The veto was the signal for the commencement of the most heated and acrimonious political contest which up to that time had been waged in the country. The bank, with its army of officers, debtors, and dependents, constituted no inconsiderable portion of the population of many of the more important States. Its patronage as used in those days was even more potential than that of the federal government. It was during this canvass for the reëlection of Jackson, Marcy being the candidate of the Democrats for governor in New York, that a broadside, written by young Tilden, headed in staring capitals, and of a most inflammatory character, signed George Clinton,” was posted throughout the State. This paper is only interesting now for the evidence it furnishes of the corrupt influences which the bank was in that day charged with exerting, and which to some extent compromised many of the most prominent statesmen and journalists of the country.

The delicate condition of young Tilden's health made it extremely difficult to decide upon any plans for his future. This indecision depressed and discouraged him. The Tilden family was a pure democracy, in which every member without distinction of age or sex seemed to have one vote on all questions affecting any of its members. Each one had a plan for Samuel, and no end of criticisms and doubts about the plans of every other of the family senate.

The habit, afterwards so conspicuous in him, of taking the exact measure, weight, and density of every possible objection or difficulty, whether direct or contingent, seemed to be common to all the Tilden household.

The effect upon young Tilden himself of such a multiplicity of cooks meddling with his broth may be inferred from the following letter to his father, pending the debate over the selection of the college in which he should pursue his

« PreviousContinue »