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The trials and temptations of a bachelor millionaire Proposals of
marriage in verse and prose. MR. Tilden's political opponents gave an involuntary but unequivocal recognition of his singularly unassailable public and private character by their exaggeration of his wealth, and by their misrepresentations of the use he made of it. Failing to find any political doctrine that could be successfully challenged on moral grounds, or any personal infirmities or delinquencies upon which they could make a combined attack, they condescended to appeal to one of the basest sentiments of our unregenerate nature by making a party shibboleth of " Old Tilden's barrell.” This gave great notoriety to his wealth and a proportionate annoyance to himself, for every mail brought him proffers of assistance in distributing it, not only from all parts of his own country, but, not infrequently, from foreign lands.
Of the number and variety of these communications only men of large wealth are apt to have any idea, nor they, unless their stores have had the factitious advertising which the Republican press and touters gave to Mr. Tilden's accumulations. Churches wanted their debts paid ; parents wanted children adopted, or educated, or established in business; debtors wanted their farms cleared of mortgages; unsuccessful speculators wished help to try their luck again ; inventors appealed to him to buy an interest in their patents; mothers invited him to marry their daughters ; gentle maidens of marriageable age asked for his photograph in exchange for their own, and the honor of a correspondence with him; cranks wished him to let them cure him ; promoters wanted, some to have him join them in great
mining enterprises, others in draining swamps, and others in cornering the timber of the country. The largest number of applications came from men and women wishing to market their political influence for his.
The late George Bancroft is reported to have said that his experience in teaching the Round Hill Academy at Northampton removed whatever doubt he had ever entertained of the total depravity of human nature. But neither priest nor pedagogue are often, if ever, forced into such a disgusting familiarity with the morbid anatomy of human society as a notoriously wealthy and successful candidate for popular favor. In this respect Mr. Tilden's experience was unique, for he was the first candidate for the chief magistracy of the United States whose wealth was sufficient to attract public attention, and whose heart and hand were unappropriated. There were times when, had Mr. Tilden listened to all the appeals that were made to him, with all his wealth, he would have been himself a beggar at the end of any week. To comprehend the nature and extent of this species of annoyance, I will give a few specimens of such appeals as were made by post, and were most readily disposed of; though personal appeals were nearly as numerous, and, unless made by absolute strangers, usually consumed more time and therefore proved more serious interruptions. The names and addresses of the writers are of course suppressed.
A Kentuckian, who, though blessed with a large family, thought he was poor, wrote:
"I am a poor man with a large family and am not able to bring them up as I would like. My three youngest are girls aged respectively about thirteen (13), ten (10), and eight (8) years old ; and I am anxious that they be decently brought up and respectably educated. How would you like to take charge of the education and rearing? and if you should be so disposed, I will give you full charge of them.
I know this proposition sounds cruel and unparental, but, sir, it is my overpowering anxiety about
them and their future that induces me thus to write to you."
One of the F. F. V's wrote:
HONORED Sır: In these times of unusual exigency unusual expediency suggests itself, and the train runs not with the extremity. Your own high and unquestionable position is such as to bear the light of a mid-day sun, but the same elevation weakens, sometimes, your best purposes by exposing to your adversary the very movement made with the best intent. To meet this emergency, do you not want a secret emissary who can go from point to point at a moment's notice to convey and secure information, who can accomplish diplomatic interviews without being suspected as your representative, and who can contrive movements without their being heralded to the reading and gossiping world? I am a woman old enough to be discreet, ugly enough not to be noticed, intelligent enough to sift, compare, and reason, wit enough to evade, wise enough to be silent, and ready enough to report, and if you can or will employ me in this official capacity, you will find me faithful, trustworthy, and efficient. I can give you the best reference in the city and in any part of the country, especially in the South. I am a Southern-born woman, familiar with all Southern influences, especially acquainted with carpet-bag rule, having been a victim of their oppression in taxation. I am personally acquainted with politicians of both parties; and, having the entrance to all circles, I have an advantage not usual. I have lived in a political atmosphere all my life, but have now no family ties to restrict my movements, or to give my confidence. My large landed estate in the South is now almost worthless ruins, owing to the working of the new régime; consequently I would seek employment of a remunerative kind, - not extravagantly so, but sufficient to my simple needs. The employment I suggest would be congenial to my taste; and in peace or war I am sure that I can be useful. The times are portentous of discord; and if strife should prevail, such service as I could render I know will be in demand. If you will entertain the proposition, I will call to see you at any time. The very proposition is a secret with myself. and I hope you will also respect it in any event. I only purpose to be in town a day or two."
A widow from Illinois, with four children, two boys and two girls, wrote:
"I cannot keep my children in school and give them food and clothing; therefore I write. I beg you to adopt one of my fatherless children, a boy thirteen years of age, the oldest boy, change his name to Samuel J. Tilden, place him in one of the best schools, watch his progress in his studies, and your generosity shall be remembered for years and years. Please write me when you can come or send to this city for the boy.”
A hoosier from Indiana wrote:
If you will send me some money ill help you along with a grate many more votes as there is a grate maney around here that will sell there votes fore anything then if you send; Express to Brownsville Union Co. Indiana."
Another hoosier, who may be presumed to have passed the early part of his life in the land o' cakes, wrote:
" i have written you three letters and i think you election is very dootful in the Western States i have traveled threw indiana illinois, masura, iway cansas peter cooper and hayes and you name is scarcely mentien and you haf to do something soon or you air beet i can sell you twenty eighty hondred votse for eight hundred dolars myself if you air willen to hep you self i Will hep you i have pledge myself to the people that i Woold give four hundred dolars porvided you would give me four hondred dolars i think that is the best i cando for you now jus send me the for hundred dollars if you think best to do so and if you send it i Will use it fur your lection. if you send it you had better send it in a register letter they air all watching me at the expres ofis and Peter Cooper friends has ofered me a thousand dolars to throw my influence to him and I wouldent noy axsept it.”
A man who was not at all proud wrote from Yankeetown:
" As you are a man that goes in the best and highest of society you must have a great many old clothes that is good but out of fashion and you cant ware them in High Society. i wish that you would send them to me as im have a hard time to git along and winter is adrawing neare
all the way that i can pay you is at the November election that is the ticket i have voted the last 20 years."
An assiduous member of a Tilden and Hendricks club wrote:
"I have been out every night and I am out of work and cannot get any.
my shoes are all worn out carrying the Tilden banner and I cannot carry it any longer unless you will send me a new pair.”
A Kentuckian who adds Rev. to his name, but whose early education had hardly been what it should have been for one of his profession, wrote:
"As i antisipate a Short tower through the mountains of Ky and should like to have from five to seven hundred dollars more than i have i will therefore ask you to send it to me forthwith By adams express and if i dont make a show of the same i will double the same five times. if convenient Send Silver fore it looks Quite pleasant all is Rite here. you shall hear from me Soon after the election. your. O.B.T.”
A Pennsylvanian who was " anxious to free our government from a mass of corruption," and " is foreman of a factory of 37 men of which 11 are Republicans," wrote:
" I am prepared to buy their votes at $5. each. If can remit me the required amount my influence is at your command and the rights of our country.”
A Jersey patriot of a frugal mind, but trusting he was honest, and who believed in fighting fire with fire, knew