Page images
PDF
EPUB

I will venture to say that if it had been his right and duty to take the oath he would not have done so at the City Hall in New York, surrounded by the forces which, according to Mr. Mines, General Woodford pictured to his imagination, but at the federal capitol, even though he had known that he would be kidnapped or subjected to a drumhead court-martial five minutes afterwards. It is doubtless true that revolutionary ideas were entertained by the hierarchy of office-holders in possession of the government. General Grant did utter menaces in published interviews and did make a display of military force in Washington to overawe Congress. I presume this was a part of the system of intimidation for which he allowed himself to be used by the office-holders, and which was intended to act upon public opinion through the fear of disturbance, as well as upon Congress. But it is safe to say that whatever the effects they produced, they did not prevent Mr. Tilden from taking the oath of office. The fear that he would do so, which induced the Republicans to swear their candidate into office privately on the Saturday previous to the commencement of his term of office, besides repeating the ceremony at the inauguration, was born of that consciousness which causes the wicked to flee when no man pursueth. I was aware that about that time Mr. Tilden's house was besieged by emissaries of the press and the telegraph to know if the rumors to that effect which prevailed in Washington were true. This was a species of curiosity which I believe Mr. Tilden did not consider it any part of his duty to relieve.”

The following lines from the austere muse of J. Russell Lowell in a satire entitled "Tempora Mutantur” were widely quoted in the columns of the Massachusetts press during the campaign of 1876:

“ The ten commandments had a meaning then,

Felt in their bones by least considerate men,
Because behind them public conscience stood,
And without wincing made their mandates good.
But now that statesmanship is just a way
To dodge the primal curse, and make it pay;

Since office means a kind of patent drill
To force an entrance to the nation's till;
And peculation something rather less
Risky than if you spelt it with an S;
Now that to steal by law is grown an art,
Whom rogues our sires, their milder sons call .smart.'

“ The public servant who has stolen or lied,

If called on may resign with honest pride.
As unjust favor put him in, why doubt
Disfavor as unjust has put him out ?
Even if indicted, what is that but fudge,
To him who counted-in the election judge? 1
Whitewashed, he quits the politician's strife,
At ease in mind, with pockets filled for life.”

1

Mr. Lowell was one of the Republican presidential electors of Massachusetts, and from the lofty moral standard by which he had been in the habit of judging public men, the suspicion obtained currency among his friends in the press that he would refuse to cast his vote for Hayes, which would have resulted in electing Tilden.

The frauds disclosed after the election, by which a majority of the electors was secured for Hayes, did not, however, prevent Mr. Lowell's acceptance of the mission to Spain at the hand of President Hayes; to prove, perhaps, that the allegation of his muse,

1. President” would not rhyme with “ fudge.”

? In a letter to Leslie Stephen, written December 4, and nearly a month after the presidential election, Mr. Lowell thus excuses himself for casting his electoral vote for Hayes.

" There was a rumor, it seems, that I was going to vote for Tilden. But in my own judgment I have no choice, and am bound in honor to vote for Hayes, as the people who chose me expected me to do. They did not choose me because they had confidence in my judgment, but because they thought they knew what that judgment would be. If I had told them that I should vote for Tilden they would never have nominated me. It is a plain question of trust. The provoking part of it is that I tried to escape nomination all I could, and only did not decline because I thought it would be making too much fuss over a trifle.". "Letters of James Russell Lowell,” Vol. II. p. 185.

" That statesmanship is just a way

To dodge the primal curse, and make it pay,"

has its honorable exceptions.

In further justice to Mr. Lowell it deserves to be recorded that he had a very respectable precedent for lending his name and reputation to bolster the administration of the only spurious President in our annals.

In an old life of Charles James Fox I have read the following written entry :

"1781, June 20. Sold by auction, the library of Charles James Fox, which had been taken in execution. Amongst the books was Mr. Gibbon's first volume of Roman history, which appeared, by the title-page, to have been given by the author to Mr. Fox, who had written in it the following anecdote:

" The author (Gibbon), at Brooke's, said there was no salvation for this country till six heals of the principal persons in the administration were laid on the table. Eleven days after, this gentleman accepted the place of Lord of Trade under those very ministers, and has acted with them ever since.'

If fame for its own sake, if to live long in the memory of man, be an end in itself worth toiling for, Tilden was to be congratulated upon the decision of the Electoral Commission, for it was the means of conferring upon him an historic prominence which the most successful administration of the presidential office could not have assured him. The poet Martial tells us that the name of Mucius Scævola, who thrust his right arm in the fire to punish it for having taken the life of another by mistake for that of the royal invader of his country, would have found its way to the "wallet in which Time carries, on his back, alms for oblivion,” had the avenging dagger reached the heart of King Porsenna, for whom it was intended.

• Major deceptæ fama est et gloria dextræ
Si non errasset, fecerat illa minus." I

So the action of the Electoral Commission has conferred upon Mr. Tilden the unique distinction of being the first — let us hope the last - President-elect of the United States feloniously excluded from the chief magistracy; a distinction which, like the banishment of Aristides, the assassinations of Cæsar, of Henry IV. of France, of Lincoln, and of Carnot, makes it one of the conspicuous and indestructible landmarks of history.

16 Greater the glory and eke the fame

Of Scævola's hand deceived,
Had it not missed its patriot aim,
The less had it achieved."

CHAPTER IV

Revisits Europe - Blarney Castle - St. Patrick's Cathedral - Tom Moore's

birthplace — The cabman's criticism - Lord Houghton's story - General Grant's reception in London - Elected an honorary member of the Cobden Club - Visits the home of his ancestry — Arrives in Paris Attends the funeral of Thiers — Talk with Gambetta - Louis Blanc's account of his visit to Louis Napoleon when a prisoner at Ham, and of the loss and recovery of his voice in London - The story of General Cavaignac's brother and mother — Tilden's exposure in recrossing the channel — Returns to the United States — The "Indian Corn Speech.”

During the spring of '77 Mr. Tilden began to feel serious concern about his health. The continued strain to which his energies had been subjected for five or six years, and especially during the preceding six or eight months, had told severely upon his constitution. Arthritic symptoms had begun to manifest themselves to such an extent as to deprive him almost entirely of the use of his left hand, and already slight indications were exhibited of the paralysis agitans, popularly known as numb palsy, which was destined to afflict him increasingly for the remainder of his days. His medical advisers counselled abstinence from all serious cares, with rest and recreation. As it was practically impossible to secure either of these advantages in his own country, after much deliberation he decided to try the efficacy of a sea-voyage and a few months' sojourn in Europe.

He made it one of the conditions of his going that I should accompany him.

We sailed in the steamer " Scythia” on Wednesday, the 18th of July, landed at Queenstown on the morning of the 27th, and slept that night at the Imperial Hotel in Cork, but not until we had visited the castle and groves of

« PreviousContinue »