man, which was, that every member might nominate whom he desired, and
that no nominee should be i)referred until he had successively beaten every
CIRCUMVENTING ni-MOCKACV AND DEATH. 589
Other. To illustrate the effect uf the programme, we may suppose that every
letter in the alphabet was in nomination (and it was in this case nearly so).
A would be ahead at the first ballot; then he would have to run against B,
for whom all, or nearly all, the friends of the other nominees would vote, for
the purpose of breaking A down ; then R would ha\e to run against L\ who
would, in the same way, beat him; and soon, the same result would follow
until Z would beat Y; then Z would run agamst A, who, of course, would in
like manner beat him ; and so the same farce would be repeated And just
so it was in this instance. On the first ballot I was foremost ; C. S. I\Iorehead
was ne.xt ; he then beat me, and himself was beaten, as others were succes-
sively until John B. Thompson, who was the lowest on the first ballot, was
ahead; I then beat him; and the same round was run again, with the same
results, until eight of my friends, despairing of any conclusion of such a
farce, left the scene. After they had gone, a third round was commenced
between Thompson and me, when, as I believe from various information. I
beat him again. But the chairman (my senator) declared him nominated.
Many members remonstrated, and denied, moreover, that he ( cnild. even had
he beaten me, have been nominated until he had beaten every other competi-
tor. But the chairman persisted, and adjourned the meeting in a storm of
clamor, declaring that Thompson was nominated. This having gotten out, it
was thought best not to attempt to correct the blunder ; and, in this way,
Thompson, who was the weakest in the race, was made the senator. There
was no doubt that 1, in a fair trial, would have been nominated and
On the foUowincj day (December iith), Lieutenant-Governor
Thompson was elected United States senator, receiving seventy-three
votes, to sixty five cast for Francis P. Stone, Democrat.
At this period, Mr. Clay was the other sitting senator for Ken-
tucky. Old age and failing health had warned him that he must
shortly quit the cares, toils, and ambitions of life. It was not antic-
ipated, either by himself or his friends, that he would sur\-ive until
the meeting of another biennial session of the Legislature. If he
died in the interval, the vacancy thus created would be supplied b\-
appointment by the Democratic governor, and, of course, by one of
his own party. This contingency, Mr. Clay and his party friends
desired to prevent, and it was understood that, to this end, before the
session adjourned, his resignation would be tendered. But the limit
of the session had nearly approached without anv step toward resig-
nation. ^Ir. Clay was an invalid in Wa.shington city, and tidings
came that he constantly declined in vitality and strength. At the
close of Deceinber, however, came the long-expected resignation.
* Life of George Rciljertsoii, page 66.
providing by its terms that it should not go into effect until the suc-
ceeding August. Mr. Clay desired to die in office, and he estimated
that, by this arrangement, he would not survive his term. On
December 30th, Archibald Dixon was, after a brief contest, chosen
to fill Mr. Clay's unexpired term. Mr. Crittenden did not desire the
fractional term, and so his name was not mentioned. The Demo-
cratic governor and his friends had anticipated that it would devolve
upon the executive to fill the vacancy, to be caused by Mr. Clay's
death, by appointment. The proviso in the latter's resignation seemed
effectually to preclude this, to their great dissatisfaction. But death
sadly disarranges the plans and blights the hopes of politicians, as well
as the laity. Mr. Clay died June 29th, and thus afforded Governor
Powell opportunity to bestow the senatorship, for a few weeks, on
that time-honored Democrat, David IMerri wether, whose unstained
public career has extended to this day.
Mr. Hardin was not given to letter-writing, and little of what he
did write yet remains, and most of that consists of laconic notes of
business. A lame hand made penmanship laborious and his writing
almost illegible. That he could have written entertaining letters may
be deduced from the following specimen, dated during the present ses-
sion of the Legislature :
(^Afr. Hardin to Governor William Johnson.')
" Frankfort, December 4th.
"Sir: Your letters have been received and all you asked attended to.
As to the young gentleman you spoke of, who wanted to read law with me,
I regret to say I have determined to have no more law students. Butler
Thomas and Mr. Skinner are here with their papers to cut off about three
hundred votes from Nelson and add it to Spencer. I am preparing for them
in the Senate, and I have no doubt I will defeat them. I must return Bards-
town good for evil, for last summer the town did me much wrong, but that
is nothing. I will fight for old Bardstown to the death. I did to-day report
a first-rate bill for the congressional districts â€” to lop off Anderson and add
Meade. I presume you get your paper, which gives you the daily news.
Can you not get Riley and his wife found insane, so their committee can stop
them from moving to Louisville?* Your old friend, etc.,
The following interesting account of Mr. Hardin's service in the
present session, is from the pen of his kinsman, Hon. Martin D.
Mc Henry :
" Mr. Hardin's last public service was rendered as a senator from Nelson
county in tlie session of 185 1-2 â€” the first Legislature elected under the
present Constitution. I had the honor and privilege of serving with him,
â– â€¢â– â– â€¢This humorous allusion was to his son-in-law, the late Thomas W. Riley, of Louisville, who then
resided at Bardstown.
NEITHER A LEADER XOR FOLLOWER. 591
being a senator from Shelby. The business of the session was truly import-
ant, as well as very laborious. We had laws to pass in some cases to meet
the changes in the new Constitution, and the commissioners, who had been
appointed for the purpose, reported to the Legislature in bill form a complete
revision and codification of all the statutes of the State of a general nature,
and we had to take up that work in joint committee, examine, revise, and,
where necessary, amend every section, and pass the whole as one statute. It
was truly gratifying to many of us that we had the aid of his large experi-
ence and sound judgment. He was not, it is true, a member of the joint
committee, but those of us who had that work to perform found him always
ready to aid us by his wise counsel. I enjo)ed my association with him
very much, admired and honored him as an eminently able lawyer and
statesman, and loved him as a kind and patronizing kinsman. I did not
regard him as at all failing from the effects of age. His healtii was good when
we parted, and 1 little thought that I should never see him on his feet again."
The narrative of Mr. Hardin's public life must now be brouiriit to
a close. He can not escape that inexorable rule, applied in all ages,
and among all men, of measuring capacity, ability, and talent by the
success they have achieved. Yet it must be admitted that it is
often an uncertain and delusive standard. Mr. Hardin had, by no
means, achieved all that, in the condition in which he was placed,
with the talents he undoubtedly possessed, and with the exercise of
more wisdom in his public career, it was possible, and. indeed, prac-
ticable, for him to have attained. Slight, indeed, were the circum-
stances that had limited his political success, but these had been like
the few extra pounds that retard the racer. He always carried weights.
In the highest reaches of human effort, trivial, and often accidental, are
the causes that determine defeat or triumph, obscurity or renown.
As a member of the United States Senate, an honor he coveted,
Mr. Hardin would, undoubtedly, have increased his fame. His
natural abilities, his great attainments, his broad statesmanship, and
practical patriotism qualified him for usefulness and success in that
arena. His strong conservatism would have tempered the heat that
too often marked the discussions of the Upper House in his day.
But he did not attain that honor, really never making a formal con-
test for it. He, indeed, in all his life undertook nothing in the way
of office-seeking that he did not believe he could reasonabl\- attain.
He knew his strength, and was not less conscious of his wcaknes. - .
As a politician, he had the elements of both. He was, as else-
where observed, neither a leader nor a follower. The only apparent
exception to this was his career in the constitutional convention and
5^2 BEX HAKDIN.
the votes that preceded. But his leadership there resulted from a
popular movement for constitutional reform, which he rather led than
originated. One reason why he was not a leader, was a deficiency of
that personal magnetism that attracts and retains followers, especially
followers among politicians. He could ingratiate himself with the
masses of the people, but when he encountered other leaders he
became their rival or their adversary. In his contests with these, he
sought victory, not by conciliation, but by crushing and overwhelm-
ing. He was lacking in all the arts of the courtier; he belonged to
the "Commons," not to the "Lords." The result was that while
popular with the people he was not so with the politicians.
The people admired his talents and had confidence in his political
integrity and ability. It was really a confession on his part when he
boasted that he had sought no honor save at the hands of the people,
whereby he meant to distinguish the people from those in power. He
was rarely in favor at court. He had also a besetting infirmity that
militated against his political success. He was resentful, and when
he felt misused he often bided his time to avenge himself. It is an
important political grace sometimes to forget. This was impossible
for Mr. Hardin.
His neglect of his personal appearance was another inauspicious
circumstance. For some offices and in some localities the time in
State history has been known when indifference to dress was deemed
a passport to popular favor. When the late William S. Pilcher, noted
as a rabble-rouser years ago, was a candidate for mayor in Louisville,
an Irishman expressed the sentiment of others besides himself when
he "huzzaed for Billy McPilcher. Faith 'an he's the man for meâ€”
he's nayther proud nor daycent."
For some exalted offices the most unlettered of the masses of the
people have always regarded certain outward proprieties requisiteâ€”
on the principle that there should be an external sign of inward grace
â€”and have resented their neglect. That Mr. Hardin never wore sen-
atorial garments was a point against him. Popular ideals can not be
disregarded without penalty. Slip-shod shoes, ill-fitting coats, and
slouchiness would have overshadowed the valor of Achilles, and lost
the Hebrew leader the laurels that crowned him on Pisgah's top.
A.N OLD KKNTUCKV HOME. 553
MR. HARDIN AT HOME.
VHEN the mailed kniirht has removed his armor, only then we
see the man. Although helmet, and visor, and breast-plate, and
greaves are no longer worn in this unknightly age, yet mankind, in
their intercourse with each other, encase themselves with an outward
demeanor, quite as effectually concealing the grace and shapeliness of
character. Only in the security and privacy of home is the reserve,
characterizing public intercourse, laid aside, and only then and there
does the man appear as he really is.
Mr. Hardin's residence at Bardstovvn was a commodious buildinsj;
of brick, of irregular structure. Originally a one-storied building,
with two rooms in front, to this an addition had been made, on the
left, of two stories, comprising a large hall and front room, and room
in rear, with similar rooms above. These added-rooms and the hall
were unusually large. The hall was entered by a front- door, and in
the hall a staircase connected with the rooms above. A later tenant
has added a veranda in front. The outer appearance of the house
gave no suggestion of architectural thought. The onl)- purpose, evi-
dently, had been to roof in and inclose a given amount of space. An
exception should be made as to the left gable, above which two chim-
neys ascended, which were connected by a horizontal wall that
manifested some intention of accompanying them to their tops, but
stopped short of that point. Perhaps some fanciful arciiitect caught
this hint from the webbed feet of water-fowls. With an ample porch
and rooms to rear, it was, altogether, a commodious dwelling, and not
suspected, in its earlier history, of being inconvenient, whatever judg-
ment might be passed on that question now. If lacking the graces
of colonial or Queen Anne architecture, or the strength of the
Gothic, yet it had within, the elements â€” elements eluding the reach
of wealth and the skill of the architect â€” of an old-fashioned,
hospitable, warm-hearted Kentucky home. The house was sur-
rounded by ample grounds, stretching down to the street, to which a
goodly number of forest, fruit, and ornamental trees added grace and
Mr. Hardin s home was lonj^r a happy one. In its sacred precincts,
austerity was laid aside and the bitterness of sarcasm and invective
carefully sheathed. The gentle and benevolent sentiments of the
heart had full and free action. Good humor and hospitality were in
the ascendant. Hearty good fellowship inspired him and made him
the most delightful of companions.
" I remember Ben Hardin," writes a daughter of the late Francis
P. Blair, Sr., "for, though poHtically opposed, he was on the kindest
terms with my parents, and always a heartily-welcomed guest at their
home. Nothing was enjoyed there more than his stories, rough as
some of them were. His true-hearted friendship to my father on one
occasion was often dwelt upon and gratefully remembered by all of us. "^â–
If cruests came to his home, they were welcome, no matter what their
rank or station. The dweller of the cabin in the " Knobs," found the
same open, unreserved greeting in the Hardin mansion that met the
honored statesman, or the citizen boasting birth and fortune. The
household was a miniature republic, where the worthy always found
ready and hospitable admittance, and were treated with perfect equal-
ity. Its members were proud, not of themselves, but rather each of
Mr. Hardin's mother survived until he had reached the zenith of
his fame, yet he was always the affectionate and loyal son as when her
clear head and steady hand guided him safely over all the pitfalls of
youth. In domestic matters, he ever yielded unquaUfied deference to
the sood sense of his wife, to whom he was tenderly attached.
Undoubtedly, the influence of "Betsey Barbour," over her hus-
band, proved most beneficent. Descended from a stock of proud and
gentle blood, yet vigorous withal, reared in a home of wealth and
refinement, and worthy every honor he could win for her or himself,
she had furnished not only an incentive to effort, but proved herself a
"lamp to his feet and a guide to his way." She curbed the excesses
and rounded the angles of his character, purified his impulses and aspi-
rations, and, by her loving inspiration, gave wings to his genius.
Toward his children, he was fond and indulgent. He found espec-
ial delidit in their manifestations of sprightliness. The affection he
felt for his own offspring, begot a tenderness for all children. Dr.
Burr Harrison was an old friendâ€” personal and political. He was
prominent as a physician, and well known as a politician. For
a while, he was a competitor of Mr. Hardin, when the latter was a
candidate for Congress in 1833. About this period, a personal mis-
* Mrs. Admiral Lee.
! ^'IIIIli'|i|'!,M:';^iii|[',Â»i':: iO;m>;'SiMt^"^ M^W.lW ff' H"\HH ' i. l il l MMn il'ii n i i n nii i i ni Fiipr p u rn" '>^ . â–
Y^-^' â€” Y
,' - ^
â– Ty-" -H
â– it I
.,^Â»3^ t ;^i
596 BEN HARDIN.
understanding occurred, and they ceased to speak to or recognize
each other for a year. Dr. Harrison had always been Mr. Hardin's
family physician, and, somewhat singularly, this relation was not ter-
minated by the breach alluded to.
When in his visits to Mr. Hardin's house they encountered each
other, they passed in silence. This unfriendly relation ended as
whimsically as it had been maintained. The doctor one day happened
to overhear Hardm talking very kindly and affectionately to one of
his (Harrison's) children. "My God," said he, "I can't stay mad
with a man that loves my children."' And thenceforward their friend-
ship knew no interruption.
A kind neighbor and a faithful friend, yet, he was not exempt
from dislikes, and indulged no false pretense or concealments on the
subject. Usually when at Bardstown, his time was spent in the
court-house, at his office, at home, or at his mill. He had no place of
resort other than these. On Sunday mornings, he would frequently
walk into town, and engage in conversation with idlers he met about
the streets. On such occasions, his conversation recruited his audience
with marvelous rapidity.
His library was large and well-selected. Aside from works on the
law, it was stocked with an abundant supply of general literature,
history, biography, poetry, etc. It was one of the most valuable
private collections in the State, and its owner was not a little proud
of it. Among his books, he spent much of his time. He was a
book-lover, and when in out of-the-way places, where libraries were
unknown, he would devour any insipid waif he could lay hands on.
with a relish equal to that of the thirsty traveler of the desert drink-
ing at a scant and muddy pool in a lonely oasis. He has been known
to spend hours â€” at such times â€” absorbed with the contents of a pri-
mary school book, finding between its simple and rudimentary lines,
knowledge and wisdom invisible to less discerning eyes.
By reason of a crippled hand, his penmanship was difficult. Per-
haps this fact in part explains why he wrote so little. One who knew
him personally and well, thought him qualified to have excelled in
literary composition. To a lady who wrote gracefully, he suggested
the abundant material for an historical romance based on Burr's con-
spiracy, and urged the undertaking.'''
He was fond of manual labor. When at home, he frequently went
"to the fields where his slaves were employed. He not only directed
them, but not unfrequently "lent a hand " hi mself. He sold a large
-^Irs Mari.^h Dnvie'^'i. of Harrodsbiirg, Ky.
MILLING, DISTILLIXG, AXf) II LSI5ANI â€¢!< V. z^^-^
number Of ho-s one year, and the purchaser comphined that he had
not sufficient help to drive them to market. Mr. Hardin volunteered
to assist, and spent a day thus. One of his most attractive resorts
was a small saw and grist-mill, operated by water-power, on his home
farm. Napoleon at the head of his army did not feel prouder than
Mr. Hardin did in the proprietorship of that mill. He would watch
the operation of its machinery for hours, in mute admiration. He
assisted in getting logs to the saw and the lumber away, as well
as filling the hopper and removing the grist. It evidently expressed
to him ideas of power, progress, and philosophy, not revealed to
ordinary observers. He labored about it not for the profit to result,
but as a mark of his esteem and respect for a manufacturing estab-
He had large orchards on his farm. On a certain season, when
fruit was abundant, he resolved to manufacture brandy. He engaged
a coppersmith at Bardstown, who yet lives to relate the fact,* to make
several copper stills. He made brandy that season, though with what
success is not known. The following year he prepared to resume
operations, when he discovered that all his stills were missing. On
investigation, he ascertained that some of his enterprising negroes had
dismantled them, and sold them, for a trifle, as old copper, to an
itinerant peddler. He vowed to open many vials of wrath on the
buyer of those stills, and, for that purpose, to pursue him to the ends
of the earth. But Mr. Hardin's wrath was of the fierce, fiery, and
evanescent kind, rapid in explosion, and not less sudden in abate-
ment. He never afterward manufactured spirits.
He began farming in early life. He acquired large tracts of
land adjacent to Bardstown, which he cultivated with the labor of his
slaves. When not professionally employed, he gave personal atten-
tion to his farm and mill. The farm was, however, usually in charge
of the negroes, one of whom acted as foreman. He was an inilul-
gent master, and averse to that discipline by means of which only a
Kentucky slave could be induced to earn his daily bread. The result
was, it required the aid of his professional income to support the
home-establishment. He was not at all discouraged, or even disap-
pointed, at these results, which he well understood and jniblicly
acknowledged. He had a colored foreman, named Rill, w hom he had
implicitly trusted for a long time. Bill's management of affairs pro\-ecl
unprofitable, but he, notwithstanding, retained his master's confidence.
A natural rascal, he finally became so bold in his thievery and mis-
â– â– r- Wm. F McC.ill.
Cq8 bkn hakoin.
doing, as to forfeit his position of trust. Mr. Hardin hired him to the
proprietors of an iron-furnace, in an adjoining county, for a year.
Bill did more work that year than he had done in many before.
To public observation he seemed hedged about with a cold reserve.
To one who knew him long and well he appeared always to be an
"absorbed thinker." At home, however, his cheerfulness and hope-
fulness were exuberant and perennial. He banqueted on good humor
and all the more generously because of his cynicism elsewhere. But
there were domestic events that overshadowed his good spirits. One
of these, the death of his son James, occurred in 1842. Never of
strong physical constitution, his health, at about the age of thirty,
had declined, and consumption fastened upon him.
Graduating at West Point, at twenty years of age, James entered
the army as lieutenant. After having served during some Indian
troubles, he grew tired of the life in barracks, during a time of pro-
found peace, and resigned. He ne.xt proposed to study law, but was
dissuaded by his father, who conceived his talents did not suit him for
that profession. He thereupon betook himself to the study of medi-
cine. He first attended lectures at Transylvania, but received his
diploma from a medical college at Philadelphia. He never practiced,
but shortly afterward again indulged his inclination for the law by
beginning its study. In due time he was admitted to the bar and
began practice with prospects so auspicious as to exceedingly gratify
his father. His character was marked by dignity, firmness, and an
extremely high sense of honor. He was happily married to Miss
Chinn, of Harrodsburg, a beautiful woman. But when life prom-
ised most, his health gave way, and he rapidly sank to a premature
The death of his daughter Emilyâ€” Mrs. Palmerâ€” occurred in 1845.
It was said by one present, that the pathos of his allusion to this .sad
event, in his Owsley speech, was exceedingly tender and moving.
The untimely fate of his son Rowan, was the great sorrow of his
last days. Originally named and christened "Rowan," after Judge
Rowanâ€” a breach which occurred between the latter and Mr. Hardin
(perhaps about the "old and new court" epoch) caused "Ben" to be
prefixed. But, by the name of Rowan he was ever known and
called. He studied law, and came early to the bar and began prac-
tice. He also edited the Gazette newspaper at Bardstown for some
years, and was a felicitous writer. He recruited a company during
the Mexican war, and accompanied his regiment to the scene of
ROWAN HARDIN. 509
action, but saw no service of note, as hostilities were then about con-
cluded. He represented Nelson county in the Legislature of 1 848. He
was conversant with current politics, and as a Whig orator was active in
every campaign of his day. He and his father frequently canvassed
together for State and National tickets, and often their audiences were