Table of Contents
The Reminiscences of Carl Schurz
Volume Three (1863-1906)
I HAPPENED to be in Frankfort-on-the-Main when reports came from America that the impeachment of President Johnson was creating much excitement in the United States. A friend of mine, who had long lived in New York, Mr. Marcuse, took me to the bourse, where I was at once surrounded by a crowd of bankers and brokers, who, no doubt, regarded me as an authority on American affairs and eagerly plied me with questions as to whether the impeachment of President Johnson would lead to revolutionary disturbances. As the Frankfort bourse had been and still was the principal market in Germany for the bonds issued by our Government during and since our Civil War, its worry about the situation in the United States was perfectly natural. I expressed to the throng surrounding me my conviction that whichever way the trial of the President might turn out, there would not be the slightest danger of any revolutionary trouble. My little speech seemed to have a reassuring effect, and “Americans,” which had been “weak” during the morning, at once became “strong.” Mr. Marcuse looked at me with an ironical smile and said: “Well, well, you will never be rich.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“Because you do not watch your chances,” Mr. Marcuse answered. “Did it not occur to you that the news from the United States had made Americans go down, that your talk to the crowd would make them go up again, and that, if you had given me a hint to buy before you spoke, we both might have made a handsome penny by the transaction?” He often repeated the story as a good joke on me.
When I arrived in the United States again, the impeachment trial was over and President Johnson had been acquitted. There had, indeed, not been any revolutionary disturbance, but the public mind was still much agitated by what had happened. Hardly anybody will doubt to-day that in ordinarily calm times, when the judgment of man is not obscured by passion or dread of great public dangers, the things of which President Johnson stood accused, would not have been thought sufficient to call for the impeachment of a President. But the days of which I speak were still feverish with the resentments left behind by the Civil War and with the nervous apprehension that the results won at so tremendous a sacrifice of blood and treasure, might in some way be lost again. Under such circumstances a judicial temper is not easily maintained. I think I do not exaggerate in saying that an overwhelming majority of the loyal Union men North and South saw in President Johnson a traitor bent upon turning over the National Government to the rebels again, and ardently wished to see him utterly stripped of power, not so much for what he had done, but for what, as they thought, he was capable of doing and likely to do. The Republican Senators who voted for Johnson's acquittal and thus kept him in power no doubt acted conscientiously, justly and patriotically; but although some of them — such men as Fessenden, Grimes, Trumbull, Henderson and others — ranked among the ablest, wisest, and in all respects most meritorious members of that body, they were not only cried down by blatant demagogues as aiders and abettors of a new treason, but also misapprehended by patriotic citizens ordinarily calm and reasonable. When passing judgment retrospectively upon what was thought, and said, and done in those days, we may well deplore the violent excitement by which many good citizens permitted themselves to be taken off their feet, and the dangerous proceedings which would have fitted a volcanic South American republic rather than ours; but in justice to the persons concerned we should not forget that immediately after so tremendous a civil conflict, and while the dearly bought results of that conflict were still trembling in the balance, being threatened by the conduct of the chief executive officer of the government, the political situation was a decidedly abnormal one, well apt to cause exaggerated apprehensions as to dangers calling for extraordinary measures of precaution. All the more praiseworthy was the attitude of the Republican Senators who under such circumstances preserved their equipoise and, at the evident risk of their whole political future, faithfully maintained their convictions of right and justice against partisan pressure of rare fierceness. At the same time it must not be forgotten that many of those who approved of the impeachment of President Johnson and who found him guilty, did so, not from mere obedience to popular clamor, but also from a sincere conviction of duty as to the necessities of the peculiar situation.
Not long after my return to St. Louis the Republican State Convention was held for the purpose of selecting delegates for the Republican National Convention which was to meet at Chicago on the 20th of May. I was appointed one of the delegates at large, and at its first meeting the Missouri delegation elected me its chairman. At Chicago, a surprise awaited me which is usually reckoned by men engaged in politics as an agreeable one. The chairman of the Republican National Committee, Mr. Marcus L. Ward, informed me that his committee had chosen me to serve as the temporary chairman of the Republican National Convention. It was an entirely unexpected honor, which I accepted with due appreciation. I made as short a speech as is permissible on such occasions, which seemed to be well received, and after the customary routine proceedings surrendered the gavel to the permanent president, General Joseph R. Hawley of Connecticut.
That General Grant would be nominated as the Republican candidate for the presidency was a foregone conclusion. As to the nomination for the vice-presidency there was a rather tame contest, which resulted in the choice of Schuyler Colfax, the Speaker of the National House of Representatives, who at that time enjoyed much popularity and seemed to have a brilliant future before him, but was fated to be wrecked on the rocks of finance.
When the Committee on Resolutions made its report, I observed with surprise that the proposed platform contained nothing on the subject of an amnesty to be granted to any of the participants in the late rebellion. This omission struck me as a grave blunder. Should the great Republican party go into the next contest for the presidency without in its profession of faith and its program of policy holding out a friendly hand to the erring brethren who were to return to their old allegiance, and without marking out for itself a policy of generosity and conciliation? I resolved at once upon an effort to prevent so grievous a mistake by offering an amendment to the platform. Not knowing whether the subject had not been thought of in the committee or whether a resolution touching it had been debated and voted down there, and deeming it important that my amendment should be adopted by the Convention without a discussion that might have let loose the lingering war passions of some hotheads, I drew up a resolution which did not go as far as I should have liked to go, but which would substantially accomplish the double object I had in view — the encouragement of well disposed Southerners and the commitment of the Republican party — without arousing any opposition. It was as follows:
“That we highly commend the spirit of magnanimity and forbearance with which men who have served in the rebellion, but who now frankly and honestly co-operate with us in restoring the peace of the country and reconstructing the Southern State governments upon the basis of impartial justice and equal rights, are received back into the communion of the loyal people; and we favor the removal of the disqualifications and restrictions imposed upon the late rebels in the same measure as the spirit of disloyalty will die out, and as may be consistent with the safety of the loyal people.”
The resolution received general applause when it was read to the Convention, and, as I had hoped, it was adopted and made a part of the platform without a word of adverse debate.
The presidential campaign of 1868 was not one of uncommon excitement or enthusiasm. The Republican candidate, General Grant, was then at the height of his prestige. He had never been active in politics and never identified himself with any political party. Whether he held any settled opinions on political questions, and, if so, what they were, nobody could tell with any assurance. But people were willing to take him for the presidency, such as he was. It is quite probable, and it has frequently been said, that, had the Democrats succeeded in “capturing” him as their candidate, he would have been accepted with equal readiness on that side. He was one of the most striking examples in history of the military hero who is endowed by the popular imagination with every conceivable capacity and virtue. People believe in perfectly good faith that the man who has commanded such mighty armies, and conducted such brilliant campaigns, and won such great battles, must necessarily be able, and wise, and energetic enough to lead in the solution of any problem of civil government; that he who has performed great tasks of strategy in the field, must be fitted to do great tasks of statesmanship in the forum or in the closet. General Grant had the advantage of such presumptions in the highest degree, especially as he had, in addition to his luster as a warrior, won a reputation for wise generosity and a fine tact in fixing the terms of Lee's surrender and in quietly composing the disagreements which had sprung from the precipitate action of General Sherman in treating with the Confederate General Johnston. On the whole, the country received the candidacy of General Grant as that of a deserving and of a safe man.
On the other hand the Democratic party had not only to hear the traditional odium of the sympathy of some of its prominent members with the rebellion, which at that time still counted for much, but it managed to produce an especially unfavorable impression by the action of its convention. Its platform stopped but little short of advocating violence to accomplish the annulment of the Reconstruction laws adopted by Congress, and it demanded the payment of a large part of the national debt in depreciated greenbacks. The floundering search for a candidate and the final forcing of the nomination upon the unwilling, weak and amiable Horatio Seymour presented an almost ludicrous spectacle of helplessness, while the furious utterances of the fiery Frank Blair, their candidate for the vice-presidency, sounded like the wild cry of a madman bent upon stirring up another revolution, while the people wanted peace. The Democrats were evidently riding for a fall.
I was called upon for a good many speeches in the campaign and had large and enthusiastic audiences. One of the experiences I had in this campaign I remember with especial pleasure. The movement in favor of paying off national bonds, not in coin but in depreciated paper money, which found advocacy in the Democratic platform, was in fact not confined to the ranks of the Democratic party. Although the Republican Convention had in its platform sternly declared against any form of repudiation, yet that movement found supporters among the Republicans too, consisting of people of confused moral notions, small politicians eager to win a cheap popularity by catering to questionable impulses, and politicians of higher rank nervously anxious to catch every popular breeze and inclined to bend to it whenever it seemed to blow with some force. That it was in the nature of downright repudiation to pay off in depreciated paper money, bonds which had been sold and purchased with the understanding that they would be paid, principal and interest, in coin, no fair-minded man would deny. But on the other side the ingenuity of the demagogue exerted itself to the utmost in inventing all possible quibbles and quirks to represent the bondholder who had lent the Government money in the days of its distress, as a designing speculator who had taken advantage of our necessities to make usurious investments and who was now trying to suck the blood of our people. The artful cry: “the same money for the bondholder and for the people,” meaning that the same depreciated paper currency which had to be used in the daily business of the people, must also be good enough for the public creditor to whom coin had been promised, seemed for a while to acquire much misleading power, especially in the Western States.
In the early part of the campaign I was asked to make a series of speeches in Indiana, and to begin with an out-door mass-meeting at a little place — if I remember rightly its name was Corydon — near the Illinois line, at which a large number of farmers were expected. While a great crowd was gathering I dined at the village hotel with the members of the local committee. They seemed to have something on their minds which finally came forth, apparently with some hesitation. One of them, after a few minutes of general silence, turned to me with a very serious mien, as if he had to deliver an important message, saying that they thought it their duty to inform me of a peculiar condition of the public mind in that region; that the people around there were all, Republicans as well as Democrats, of the opinion that all the United States bonds should be paid off in greenbacks and that an additional quantity of greenbacks should be issued for that purpose; that there was much feeling on that question, and that they, the committee, would earnestly ask me, if I could not conscientiously advocate the same policy, at least not to mention the subject in my speech.
Having been informed that there had been a good deal of greenback talk in that neighborhood, I was not surprised. But I thought it a good opportunity to administer a drastic lesson to my chicken-hearted party-friends. “Gentlemen,” I said, “I have been invited here to preach Republican doctrines to your people. The Democratic platform advocates the very policy which you say is favored by your people. The Republican platform emphatically condemns that policy. I agree with it. I think it is barefaced, dishonest, rascally repudiation. If your people favor this, they stand in imminent need of a good, vigorous talking to. But if you, the committee managing this meeting, do not want me to speak my mind on this subject, I shall not speak at all. I shall leave instantly, and you may do with the meeting as you like.” It was as if a bombshell had dropped among my committeemen. They were in great consternation and cried out accordingly. I had been announced as the principal speaker. A large number of people had come to hear me. If I left, there would be a great disappointment which would hurt the party. But I did not mean it — did I?
I assured them that I was in dead earnest. I would stay and speak only on condition that I should feel at perfect liberty to express my convictions straightforwardly and impressively. They looked at one another as if in great doubt what to do, and then, after a whispered consultation, told me that, of course if I insisted, they must let me have my way; but they begged me to “draw it mild.” I replied that I could not promise to “draw it mild,” but that I believed they were mistaken in thinking that their people, if properly told the truth, would favor the rascally policy of repudiation. They shook their heads and sighed and “hoped there would be no row.”
The meeting was very large, mostly plain country people, men and women. The committee-men sat on the platform on both sides of me, with anxious faces, evidently doubtful of what would happen. I had put the audience in sympathetic temper when in due order of my speech I reached the bond question. Then I did not “draw it mild.” I described the circumstances under which the bonds were sold by our Government and bought by our creditors; the rebellion at the height of its strength; our armies in the field suffering defeat after defeat; our regular revenues sadly insufficient to cover the expenses of the war; our credit at a low ebb; a gloomy cloud of uncertainty hanging over our future. These were the circumstances under which our Government called upon our own citizens and upon the world abroad for loans of money. Those whom we then called bondholders, lent their money upon our promise that it would be paid back in coin. They did so at a great risk, for if we had failed in the war, they might have lost all or much of what they had lent us. Largely owing to the help they gave us in our extremity, we succeeded. And now are we to turn round and denounce them as speculators and bloodsuckers, and say that we will not give them in the day of success and prosperity what we promised them in the day of our need and distress? Would not that be downright knavery and a crime before God and men?
When I had advanced thus far, cries of “Shame! Shame!” came from the audience. Then I began to denounce the vile politicians who advocated such a disgraceful course, first the Democrats who had made such an ignominious proposition a part of their platform, and then the Republicans who, believing that such a movement might develop some popular strength, had cowardly bent their knees to it. By this time my hearers were thoroughly warmed up and when I opened my whole vocabulary of strong language, in all parts of the crowd arose such cries as “You are right!” “Bully for you!” “Give it to them!” “Hit them again!” and other ebullitions of the unsophisticated mind. And when I added that I had been told the whole population of this region was in favor of that crime of repudiating the honest debts of the Republic, and that I had in their name repelled the charge as a dastardly slander, my hearers broke out in a storm of applause and cheers lasting long enough to give me time to look round at my committee-men, who returned my gaze with a smile of pitiable embarrassment on their faces.
When my speech was over I asked them what they now thought of the repudiation sentiment in their neighborhood. Ah, they had “never been so astonished in their lives.” One of them attempted to compliment me upon my “success in so quickly turning the minds of those people.” But I would not let them have that consoling conception of the facts, and answered that I had not turned the minds of those people at all; that their feelings and impulses were originally honest; that I had only called forth a manifestation of that original honesty, and that, if the local political leaders had believed in the original honesty of the people and courageously stood up for truth and right instead of permitting themselves to be frightened by a rascally agitation and of pusillanimously pandering to it, they would have had the same experience.
In fact, the same experience has repeated itself in the course of my political activity again and again until a late period. I have had an active part in a great many political campaigns and probably addressed as many popular meetings as any man now living; and I have always found that whenever any public question under public discussion had in it any moral element, an appeal to the moral sense of the people proved uniformly the most powerful argument. I do not, of course, mean to say that there were not at all times many persons accessible to selfish motives, and liable to yield to the seduction of the opportunity for unrighteous gain, and that such evil influences were not at times hard to overcome; but with the majority of the people, notably the “plain people” — using the term in the sense in which Abraham Lincoln was wont to use it — I found the question: “is this morally right?” to have ultimately more weight than the question: “will this be profitable?” We have, indeed, sometimes witnessed so-called “crazes” in favor of financial policies that were essentially immoral, such as the “inflation craze,” and the “silver craze” gaining an apparently almost irresistible momentum among the people. But that was not owing to a real and widespread demoralization of the popular conscience, but rather to an artful presentation of the question which covered up, disguised the moral element in it, and so deceived the unsophisticated understanding. And not to that alone, but to the cowardice of politicians of high as well as low rank who, instead of courageously calling things by their right names, would, against their better convictions, yield to what they considered a strong current of opinion, for fear of jeopardizing their personal popularity. I have seen men of great ability and high standing in the official world do the most astonishing things in this respect when they might, as far as their voices could be heard, have easily arrested the vicious heresies by a bold utterance of their true opinions. The moral cowardice of the politicians is one of the most dangerous ailments of democracies.
General Grant's election was a foregone conclusion. There was a widespread feeling that with Grant in the presidential chair, the National Government would be in safe hands.
To me the Republican victory brought a promotion which I had not anticipated while I was active in the campaign. One of the United States Senators from Missouri, Mr. John B. Henderson, had voted in the impeachment trial for the acquittal of President Johnson. He was a gentleman of superior ability and of high character, but he had voted for the acquittal of Andrew Johnson; he had done so for reasons entirely honorable and entirely consistent with his principles and convictions of right, but in disregard of the feelings prevalent among his constituents and in spite of a strong pressure brought upon him by hosts of Republicans in his own State; and as his term as a Senator was just then expiring, this clash was fatal to his prospects of a re-election. The warmest of his friends frankly recognized the absolute impossibility of keeping him in his place. Indeed, all the Republican Senators who had voted for Johnson's acquittal found themselves more or less at variance with their party in their respective States; but Republicanism in Missouri was in one respect somewhat different from Republicanism elsewhere. In Missouri a large part of the population had joined the rebellion. The two parties in the Civil War had not been geographically divided. The Civil War had therefore had the character of a neighborhood war — not only State against State, or district against district, but house against house. Guerrilla warfare continued to some extent in the interior of Missouri after the Civil War on a great scale had ceased. In fact, when, during the presidential campaign of 1868, I had to travel in a carriage through a somewhat lonesome region from Springfield in Southwest Missouri to Sedalia — a region in which not a few ruins of burned houses told the story of the neighborhood war that had raged there — I was warned by anxious friends that my journey might be somewhat unsafe and that it would be wise for myself and my companion to travel with revolvers on our laps, ready for action, a precaution which, however, proved unnecessary. The bitter animosities of the civil conflict survived in Missouri much longer than in the Northern States, and any favor shown to “the traitor” Andrew Johnson appeared to the great mass of Missouri Republicans simply unpardonable.
The immediate consequence of Mr. Henderson's course was that his colleague in the Senate, Mr. Charles D. Drake, obtained the directing influence in the party which for the moment seemed to be undisputed. Senator Drake was an able lawyer and an unquestionably honest man, but narrow-minded, dogmatic and intolerant to a degree. He aspired to be the Republican “boss” of the State — not, indeed, as if he had intended to organize a machine for the purpose of enriching himself or his henchmen. Corrupt schemes were absolutely foreign to his mind. He merely wished to be the recognized authority dictating the policies of his party and controlling the Federal offices in Missouri. This ambition overruled with him all others. His appearance was not imposing, but when you approached him, he made you feel that you had to do with a man full of the consciousness of power. He was of small stature, but he planted his feet upon the ground with demonstrative firmness. His face, framed with gray hair and a short stubby white beard, and marked with heavy eyebrows, usually wore a stern, and often even a surly expression. His voice had a rasping sound, and his speech, slow and peremptory, was constantly accompanied with a vigorous shake of the forefinger which meant laying down the law. I do not know to what religious denomination he belonged; but he made the impression as if no religion would be satisfactory to him that did not provide for a well-kept hell fire to roast sinners and heretics. Still he was said to be very kind and genial in his family and in his circle of intimate friends. But in politics he was inexorable. I doubt whether, as a leader, he was ever really popular with the Republican rank and file in Missouri. But certain it is that most of the members of his party, especially in the country districts, stood much in awe of him.
Mr. Drake, very naturally, wished to have at his side in the place of Mr. Henderson, a colleague sympathizing with him and likely to shape his conduct according to Senator Drake's wishes. He chose General Ben Loan of the western part of the State, a gentleman of excellent character and respectable, but not uncommon abilities. Senator Drake permitted it to go forth as a sort of decree of his that Mr. Loan should be elected to the Senate, and, although the proposition did not seem to meet with any hearty response in the State, he would have been so elected, had not another candidacy intervened. It happened in this wise: I was a member of a little club consisting of a few gentlemen of the same way of thinking in politics who dined together and then discussed current events once or twice a month. At one of those dinners, soon after the presidential election of 1868, the conversation turned upon the impending election of Senator Henderson's successor and the candidacy of Mr. Drake's favorite, General Loan. We were all agreed in heartily disliking Mr. Drake's kind of statesmanship. We likewise agreed in disliking the prospect of seeing Mr. Drake duplicated in the Senate — indeed fully duplicated — by the election of Mr. Loan. But how prevent it? We all recognized, regretfully, the absolute impossibility of getting the Legislature to re-elect Mr. Henderson. But what other candidate was there to oppose to Mr. Loan? One of our table-round turned to me and said: “You!” The others instantly and warmly applauded. The thought that I, a comparatively new comer in Missouri, should be elected Senator in preference to others who had been among the leaders in the great crisis of the State only a few years ago, seemed to me extravagant, and I was by no means eager to expose myself to what I considered almost certain defeat. But my companions insisted, and I finally agreed that a “feeler” might be put out in the Democrat, the leading Republican journal in St. Louis, of which Colonel William M. Grosvenor, a member of our little table-company, was the editor in chief. The number of Republican papers in the State which responded approvingly was surprisingly large and I soon found myself in the situation of an acknowledged candidate for the senatorship “in the hands, of his friends.” It seemed that when “stumping” the State in the last campaign I had won more favor with the country people than I myself was aware of. Still, my chances of success would have been slim, had not my principal adversary, Senator Drake, appeared in person upon the scene.
When he learned that my candidacy was developing strength, he hurried from Washington to Jefferson City, the State capital of Missouri, to throw the weight of his personal influence with the Legislature into the scale against me. By his side appeared General Loan. There was then perfect justification for me to be on the ground with some of my friends. My manager was Colonel Grosvenor, the editor of the Democrat, an uncommonly bright, genial, active and energetic young man. I could not have had a more efficient and more faithful champion, or a more skillful tactician. In their talks, with members of the Legislature my opponents were reckless in the extreme. They denounced me as a foreign intruder, as a professional revolutionist, as a “German infidel,” as a habitual drunkard, and what not. Our plan of campaign was very simple: Not a word against my competitor, General Loan; no champagne or whisky, nor even cigars; no noisy demonstrations; no promises of offices or other pledges in case of my election; but a challenge to General Loan and also to Senator Drake, if he would accept it, to meet me in public debate before the day when the caucus of the Republican majority for the nomination of a Senatorial candidate was to be held. In the meantime Colonel Grosvenor and the friends with him were to mingle with the members of the Legislature, to watch what was said to and by them and to bring to me those who wished to talk to me personally. Thus the campaign went on for several days. It attracted much attention throughout the North and was commented upon in the newspapers, mostly in my favor. There were some symptoms of friendly zeal in my behalf. My friend, Sigismund Kaufmann, in New York, telegraphed to me that if I needed any money for my campaign, he would put $10,000 at my disposal. I telegraphed back my thanks, but declined the money since I had no use for it. My reliance was upon the public debate.
Senator Drake accepted the challenge for himself and General Loan. Arrangements were made for two meetings on two consecutive evenings. On the first evening I was to open with a speech of a certain length, and on the second evening Loan and Drake were to answer me, and I was to close. The announcement, as it went over the State, attracted from the country districts — as well as the cities — so many of the friends of the two candidates, who wished to witness what they considered a great event, that the hotels of the State capital were crowded to the utmost and every new arrival increased the excitement.
Remembering the debate between Lincoln and Douglas at Quincy, Illinois, to which I had listened ten years before, I kept my opening speech in calm, somewhat tame, defensive tone, reserving my best ammunition for my closing argument and putting forth in a somewhat challenging manner only a few sharp points which I wished Drake to take up the next evening. The effect of my speech was satisfactory in a double sense. My supporters were well pleased with the courtesy and moderation with which I had stated my position and repelled certain attacks, and Mr. Drake was jubilant. He could not conceal his anticipation of triumph. Before a large crowd he said in a loud voice: “That man was described to me as a remarkable orator, something like Cicero and Demosthenes combined. But what did we hear? A very ordinary talk. Gentlemen, to-morrow night about this hour General Carl Schurz will be as dead as Julius Caesar!” When I heard this, I was sure that his speech would be as bitter, overbearing, and dictatorial as I could wish, and that thus he would deliver himself into my hands.
The next evening the great hall of the assembly was crowded to suffocation. General Loan, my competitor, spoke first. His speech was entirely decent in tone but quite insignificant in matter. Its only virtue was its brevity. It received only that sort of applause which any audience will grant to any respectable man's utterance which is not too long and not offensive, even if uttered in a voice too low to be heard. Senator Drake then mounted the rostrum with a defiant air as one who would make short work of his antagonists. After a few remarks concerning his attitude on the negro question he took me in hand. Who was I to presume to be a candidate for the Senate? He would, indeed, like to inquire a little into my past career, were it not that he would have to travel too far — to Germany, and to various places in this country, to find out whether there was not much to my discredit. But he had no time for so long a journey, however instructive such a search might be. This insinuation was received by the audience with strong signs of displeasure, which, however, stirred up Mr. Drake to greater energy. Then he launched into a violent attack on the Germans of Missouri, for whose political character and conduct he made me responsible. He denounced them as an ignorant crowd, who did not understand English, read only their German newspapers, and were led by corrupt and designing rings; as marplots and mischief-makers who could never be counted upon, and whose presence in the Republican party hurt that party more than it helped it. Finally, after having expressed his contempt for the newspapers and the politicians who supported my candidacy, he closed with an elaborate eulogy on General Loan and himself, the length of which seemed to tire the audience, for it was interrupted by vociferous calls for me coming from all parts of the house. The immediate effect of Mr. Drake's speech was perceptibly unfavorable to him and his candidate — especially his bitter denunciation of the Germans and of a large part of the Republican party which advocated my election, for many members of the Legislature remembered how important an element those same Germans formed of their constituency, and how much their political standing depended on those same newspapers.
When I rose, the audience received me with a round of uproarious cheers. I succeeded in putting myself into relations of good humor even with my opponents by introducing myself as “a young David, who, single-handed and without any weapon except his sling and a few pebbles in his pouch, had to meet in combat two heavily-armed Goliaths at once.” The audience laughed and cheered again. I then brushed away Mr. Loan's “harmless” speech with a few polite phrases and “passed from the second to the principal.” The laugh which followed caused Mr. Loan to blush and to look cheap. I then proceeded to take the offensive against Mr. Drake in good earnest. To the great amusement of my hearers I punctured with irony and ridicule the pompous pretense that he was the father of the new constitution with which Missouri was blessed. I then took up his assault upon the Germans. I asked the question who it was that at the beginning of the war took prisoners the rebel force assembled in Camp Jackson and thus saved St. Louis and the State to the Union, and who was foremost on all the bloody fields in Missouri? The whole audience shouted: “The Germans! The Germans!” I asked another question: Where Mr. Drake was in those critical days, and answered it myself, that having been a Democrat before the war pleading the cause of slavery, he sat quietly in his law office, coolly calculating when it would be safe for him to pronounce himself openly for the Union, while the Germans were shedding their blood for that Union. This was a terrible thrust. My unfortunate victim nervously jumped to his feet and called my friend, General McNeil, who was present, to witness that the General himself advised him to stay quietly at home, because he could do better service there than twenty men in the field. Whereupon General McNeil promptly answered: “Yes, but that was long after the beginning of the war” — an answer which made Mr. Drake sink back into his chair, while the meeting burst out in a peal of laughter. Soon he rose again to say that I was wrong in imputing to him any hostility to the Germans, for he was their friend. My reply instantly followed that then we had to take what he had said of them to-night as a specimen of Mr. Drake's characteristic friendship. The audience again roared with laughter. But the sharpest arrow was still to be shot. I reviewed the Senator's career as a party leader — how he had hurled his anathema against every Republican who would not take his word as law, thus disgusting and alienating one man after another, and now seeking to read out of the party every man and every newspaper, among them the strongest journal in the State, that supported me. Almost every sentence drew applause. But when I reached my climax, picturing Mr. Drake as a party leader so thinning out his following that he would finally stand “lonesome and forlorn, surrounded by an immensity of solitude, in desolate self-appreciation,” the general hilarity became so boisterous and the cheering so persistent, that I had to wait minutes for a chance to proceed. I closed my speech in a pacific strain. There had been talk that, if I were elected, the unseemly spectacle would be presented of two Senators from the same State constantly quarreling with one another. I did not apprehend anything of the kind. I was sure, if we ever differed, Senator Drake would respect my freedom of opinion, and I certainly would respectfully recognize his. Our watchword would be: “Let us have peace.”
When I had finished, there was another outbreak of tumultuous applause and a rush for a handshake, the severest I have ever had to go through. With great difficulty I had to work my way to my tavern and to bed, where I lay long awake hearing the jubilant shouts of my friends on the streets. The first report I received in the morning was that Mr. Drake had quickly withdrawn from last night's meeting, before its adjournment, had hurried to his hotel, had asked for his bill and the washing he had given out, and when told that his shirts and collars were not yet dry, had insisted upon having them instantly whether wet or dry, and then had hurried to the railroad station for the night train East. The party-dictatorship was over and its annihilation was proclaimed by the flight of the dictator.
The same day the caucus of the Republican members of the Legislature took place. I was nominated for the Senatorship on the first ballot, and on motion the nomination was made unanimous. My election by the Legislature followed in due course. No political victory was ever more cleanly won. My whole election expenses amounted only to my board bill at the hotel, and, absolutely unencumbered by any promise of patronage or other favor, I took my seat in the Senate of the United States on the 4th of March, 1869. My colleague, Mr. Drake, courteously escorted me to the chair of the president of the Senate, where I took the oath of office.
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