divided as to which excelled in oratory.
A series of speeches in the State of Ohio, delivered during the
presidential contest, resulting in General Taylor's election, were
regarded in that day, by those who heard them, as unparalleled in
eloquence and effect. Rowan Hardin's power of thrilling description
and narration, said a competent judge, would compare not unfavora-
bly with those of Sir Walter Scott. In 1851, he was appointed by
President Fillmore, secretary of legation to Gautemala. During that
year, in a secluded spot in the mountains of the Isthmus of Darien.
he was murdered by an unknown assassin. His tragic fate was only
discovered months afterward, when his bleaching bones were identi-
fied by papers found on the spot.
He was bright and vivacious, possessing rare colloquial gifts. He
was not free from those vices of social life peculiar to a social nature.
Confident, hopeful, and improvident, he took too little thought of the
morrow. At the bar, his strength was chiefly in addressing the jury.
Few men have been better equipped intellectually for the achievement
of a brilliant career. "It fills me with sadness,"' writes one who
knew him from boyhood, "when I recall his talents, and think of
what he might have accomplished, and how he threw all away.'' He
was the pride and idol of his father's heart â€” his father's favorite and
weakness. Expressions of admiration for Rowan's abilities were so
frequent as to attract the amused attention of Mr. Hardin's friends.
Rowan was his paragon. " In the excitement over the Mexican war,"
writes Mr. Garland, then a student at Bardstown, "Rowan Hardin
went to the seat of hostilities on his 'own liook.' Shortly after,
having returned, he called a meeting at the old Baptist church for the
purpose of relating his experience in Mexico and to recruit a company
for the service. Rowan was a peculiarly gifted man, and everybody
(so to speak) went to hear him. His father and mother sat near the
speaker's stand. In one of his loftiest flights, while the crowd did not
seem to know whether they were sitting or standing, 'Old Ben,' the
tears running down his cheeks, turned to his wife: ' Betsey.' said
he, choking with emotion, "I do believe he is a greater man than his
father.' It was a proud night C)r these two old people."
600 BEN HARDIN.
On another occasion, on the elevated plateau where the court-house
once stood, at Brandenburg, overlooking the waters of the Ohio, some
hundred or so feet beneath, from which vistas of the river cast and
west stretched out for many miles, Mr. Hardin walked restlessly and
uneasily to and fro. At length, that which he expected yet feared,
the steamboat, came in view from above, that bore Rowan southward
on his last journey. Silently and sadly he gazed upon the graceful
vessel sweeping by, and as it faded in the west, raising his hand, and
with a full heart : * ' Yonder goes the grandest man I have ever known.
I shall never see him again â€” never ! "
"The tragic death of Rowan," says General Preston, "was the
great sorrow of Mr. Hardin's life, but no unmannerly complaining,
either in private conversation or in public, revealed that sorrow, but,
on the contrary, he always manifested a subdued pride and pleasure
whenever he recalled the memory or alluded to the death of his favor-
EAKLV KESFECT FOR RELIGION. 60I
A lawyer's theology.
APART from education, early influences, and youthful training,
there is a side of human nature, either impressed with spiritual
beliefs or which, in normal natures, is an utter blank, awaiting such
It may be a quality of mind or soul, or it may be a faculty or an
instinct. The wild Indian, without revelation or teacher, without
church or priest, yet has the faith of a "Great Spirit" impressed on
his soul. It is no answer to charge to superstition these intuiti\-c sug-
gestions that come, whence, no one knows.
" "Tis the Diviuity that stirs within us ;
'Tis Heaven itself that points out a hereafter,
And intimates eternity to man."
That a descendant of the Huguenots, exiled for their religion,
should have had an instinctive belief in Deity and revelation, seems in
the natural order. That Huguenot faith, that caused its possessor to
abandon home and country, cross the ocean (wider and stormier than
now), and brave the perils of a savage wilderness for his faith, not
only ought to have rescued his descendants from skepticism, but
should leaven generations of that blood to come.
At what time Mr. Hardin first gave thought to subjects connected
with the spiritual side of life can not be determined. For religion
and its observances, he was early taught respect, and no j-outhiul
impulse or waywardness ever caused him to treat either otherwise.
His devotion to his mother would have insured this much.
His beloved and faithful wife was a pious woman, and thus another
tie bound him to the religion of his fathers. His devotion to her
knew neither "variableness nor shadow of turning," from the bright
day she became his bride to that dark one. when he heard the clods
fall on her coffin. They were bone of one bone, flesh of one flesh,
and kindred in spirit. "I have never," said he. "seen her on her
bended knees, without feeling that I ought to go and fall at her side."
However far short he came of a religious life, yet, it is certain that
from a very early age. he contemplated the time when he would make
his peace with his Maker.
602 1;EN IIAKDIN.
"1 acknowledge very candidly,"' said he, on one occasion, "and I
acknowledge it with a degree of shame, that I am not a member of any
church. I have encouraged my family, black and white, to go to church,
and I have contributed toward the erection of meeting-houses, perhaps, as
much as any man, and no one is more devoted to the great Christian scheme
than I am. But I have never played the Pharisee, nor prayed and bellowed
in the jniblic streets, nor proclaimed my religion from the house-tops."
While not free from the use of expletives, that had more strength
than polish, yet he never used profane language. This assertion is
based not alone on the testimony of those in position to know, but is
consistent with his character. Although given to expressing himself
strongly, yet he never used words save to express ideas. As much
can not be said of many addicted to habitual profanity, who often
hide their poverty of ideas by interlarding their conversation with
One, who knew him well, said Mr. Hardin was a great Bible stu-
dent. He thought many portions of the Bible peculiarly eloquent, par-
ticularly the book of Isaiah. He was always religiously inclined, though
not a member of a church until just before his death. He had a profound
contempt for any man or woman who spoke disrespectfully of the
Bible. In his religious opinions he was most decided. He believed
in Christianity, in the existence of a God, and a state of future
rewards and punishments. He had no sympathy with the Voltaires
of his day â€” the Voltaires, the Humes, and the Paines â€” and enjoyed
greatly the ironical satire of Dean Swift, in his petition addressed to
Bolingbroke and his friend, who had published a tract against Chris-
tianity. To another, Mr. Hardin once remarked: " The fir.st book for
a law student is the Bible." Said a minister, himself a scholarly
divine: "Mr. Hardin was an excellent theologian."* If this sounds
extravagant, remember that the "Autocrat" has announced that "we
are all theological students, and more of us qualified as doctors of
divinity than have received degrees at any of the universities."!
It was not until he came to the bar that he began the study of the
Bible. Indeed, he had read it but little, until after his marriage. One
pleasant evening, early in his career, as his young wife was sitting at
the front door of their residence awaiting his return from his office,
she saw him approaching with a bundle under his arm. When he
came in speaking distance, her first question was as to the contents of
his bundle. "Well. Betsey. I will tell you; Rov.nn and the other
lawyers are always quoting scripture on me in their speeches, and d â€” d
-The late Rev. S. L. Helm. t Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, page 33.
THE CHARM OF METHODISM, 603
if I don't intend to know as mucli of it as they do. This is a Bible."
He was not only fond of Isaiah, as above observed, but also of Job.
"I consider them (Isaiah and Job) the most eloquent I ever read,
except the twenty-third chapter of Matthew, where it takes hold of
those it calls Pharisees, hypocrites, and scribes, and says : ' Wo ! unto
you, ye scribes and Pharisees.' "
His mother was a member of the Baptist church, but his wife was
a Methodist, and to the latter church he was always inclined. Said
he, in 1849, " I am not a Methodist, but I am a lobby member, and I
beHeve a good deal in that doctrine. I believe that good works go a
great way toward getting a man into heaven ; and that they are the
best turnpikes and railroads upon which one can travel in that direc-
tion. There is a doctrine, once elected always elected, that I do not
He was particularly fond of both vocal and instrumental music, and
would frequently attend church to enjoy the singing, and would often
weep under its influence.
"When at home," writes a valued correspondent, " he would frequentlv
send for his niece and the writer to come to his house and sing for him.
Thi^- was before he had made any religious profession, or disease or infirmity
had given special warning to prepare for the hereafter. Among his favorite
hymns were, ' Jesus, lover of my soul,' ' Show pity, Lord ! oh, Lord, forgive,'
and 'An alien from God and a stranger to frrace.' " *
The following extract is from Dr. Redford's "History of Metho-
dism in Kentucky:"
"Ben Hardin and his family were among the best and earliest friends of
the Methodist cliurch in Bardstown, and, in the course of years, became
members of its communion. Mr. Hardin was peculiarly attracted by Meth-
odist singing. This was the charm of Methodism to him. He would
diverge at any time from his regular road on liis tour to courts, to enjov the
luxury of camp-meeting songs. May Methodism never lose those warm-
hearted and energetic appliances which won the heart of that great lawyer.
"An anecdote, related to me botli by Marcus Lindsey and Ben Hardin,
ought, perhaps, to be preserved. Mr. Hardin had turned aside from his
route to court in Hardin county, to stop at a cami)-meeting, which Mr.
Lindsey was attending. About midnight. Mr. Lindsey observed Mr. Har-
din about to lie down on some clapboards between two tents. He kindly
invited him to sleep in the preachers' tent. Accordingly, his guest laid
down, but about two o'clock, a tremendous shouting was raised in the altar
over souls converted. Mr. Hardin sprang u[) very suddenly, and, rubbing
*Dr. W. A. Hickm.in.
604 I^EN HAKDIN.
his eyes, exclaimed, with an oath, that if they kept on that way, they would
kill the devil before day. Mr. Lindsey hapi)ened to be near, and remarked
to him : ' That would be bad business for you lawyers, Mr. Hardin.'
'Yes,' said Mr. Hardin, 'quite as bad for you preachers, Mr. Lindsey, for
it would break up both professions.' "
The religion of the pioneers was, in a high degree, emotional.
Spiritual regeneration, in those times, was attended with wild shout-
ings and mental perturbation, seemingly little short of insanity.
The veritable stories told by pioneer historians of religious enthusi-
asts falling in swoons, beholding visions, and possessed of the "jerks"
are rapidly assuming the tinge of romance. While Mr. Hardin was
always a "believer," his clear judgment and sober reason caused him
to shrink from participation in such excesses, and to question the
divinity of their origin.
The late Bishop Hubbard Hinde Kavanaugh and Mr. Hardin were
long, warm personal friends. Mr. Hardin was a very infrequent
attendant on public worship, but was always in the sanctuary when
Kavanaugh occupied the pulpit at Bardstown. That was in the days
of the bishop's itinerancy â€” before he wore the highest honor of his
church. But he was then conspicuous for piety, learning, eloquence,
and rare mental gifts. Coupled with these, he possessed a racy wit,
and herein was " the one touch of human nature," in which originated
that allied friendship with Hardin that death only sundered.
While partial to the church of his wife, yet he was broader than
any church in his views and feelings. When his son William died,
while a student at the Roman Catholic college of St. Joseph, of Bards-
town, although little more than a child, no objection was made to his
receiving the consolations of that church. Afterward the eccentric
W^illiam Downes, a minister of that anti-missionary branch of the
Baptist church, which traces its origin to apostolic times, fell into a
theological dispute with a Catholic priest. Mr. Hardin acted as the
friend of Downes, and a debate was arranged. He supplied Downes
with a handsome suit of clothes to wear upon the occasion, and,
according to Spencer (the Baptist historian), the latter came off tri-
umphant. In the constitutional convention, Mr. Hardin stood almost
alone with Rev. Dr. John L. Waller, in the unsuccessful attempt to
defeat the apparently needless restriction against clcrg}'men occupy-
ing seats in the General Assembly. It was charged to Mr. Hardin,
to the discredit of his candor and sincerity, that "he was all things to
all men," that he talked agriculture with the farmer, cooking with his
NEAR THE NARROW PATH. 605
wife, medicine with the physician, law with the lawyer, politics with
the politician, etc. He, undoubtedly, was fond of discussing the l^iblc
and theology with the clergy, though his discussions never degener-
ated into disputes. His mind was full of that thirsting after truth that
caused it to drink at every wayside spring that babbled and flowed by
the path of life.
Mr. Hardin lived in the constant exercise of many virtues essential
to Christian character. No one ever suspected him of being in the
slightest degree a hypocrite or pretender. He was what he was and
scorned all pretense. Hypocrites, pretenders, upstarts, and parvenus
were his especial abhorrence. His honesty and integrity were never
questioned. His word was ever his bond. Much as he delighted in
professional victory, it was never charged that he won it by falsehood.
He might, in discussing a case, ignore the law and the facts, but if he
alluded to either he stated them fairly. He scorned the arts of soph-
istry and misstatement practiced by small and crafty minds. He was
sober and temperate in his habits. He delighted in secret charities,
and instances of generous deeds could be recorded touching in the
delicacy with which they were done. In him, the widow and the
orphan, the ignorant and the helpless, found an unfailing and constant
friend. He always acted on the idea, though bound by no religious
tie, that an account of his deeds was being kept, that much misdoing
was punished in this world, but that somewhere in the universe and
at some period in the cycles of time, the account would be settled, and
that full and complete justice would be done. Such a man, so imbued
by study with biblical wisdom, had not far to go to find the straight
and narrow path that leads to life eternal.
606 BEN HARDIN.
THE END AND HOW IT CAME.
"There is a time, we know not when,
There is a line, we know not where."
J^l R. HARDIN'S sixty-eighth spring was less bright to him than
I V its predecessors. Year by year the hopes and ambitions of an
exuberant manhood had grown more subdued. Professional success,
the honors of office, a wide-spread fame, a comfortable fortune, a
happy home â€” all these and more had attended and crowned his career,
and these, undoubtedly, alleviated the burden of life. But age was
making inroads on bodily strength and endurance, and the spirits grew
less elastic. His gifted and manly sons, whom he had idolized and
from whom he had hoped so much, were dead before their time.
Rowan, his best beloved, during the previous j^ear had fallen by an
assassin's hand in a foreign land.
Old friends, with whom he had started life, were rapidly passing
down to "dusty death," leaving him with the sensation of lingering
when the banquet of life was done. If the days were not already
" few and evil,'' such a period seemed approaching. But he indulged
no idle or senseless repining. "Work while it is day," was the motto
on which he had acted all his life. No task was shirked, no duty neg-
lected, no engagement unfulfilled. Yet his habit of revery and self-
communion grew more marked and of more frequent recurrence.
On the adjournment of the legislative session of 185 1-2 he returned
home from Frankfort, and resumed his professional labors. On a bright
Sabbath day in May he left Bardstown to attend court at Lebanon.
His riding-horse inclined to be easily scared, and his saddle-girth was
defective. As he was setting out, Mrs. Hardin expostulated with him
about incurring the danger of the bad girth, but with a smile and a
jocular remark he rode away. He intended to lodge that night with
his son-in-law, Dr. Palmer, near Springfield, and so he did. The fol-
lowing morning, in attempting, while mounted, to open a gate that
led to the turnpike, the treacherous saddle-girth broke, and he fell to
the ground. He was so injured as to be unable to rise. Dr. Palmer,
THE SAME "OLD BEN." (^^
who had witnessed the accident, hastened to his assistance. As Doc
tor P. approached, Mr. Hardin looked up from his prostrate posi"on
and, with a smile, repeated the lines from Bu position,
" How many lengthened sage advices
The husband frae the wife despises."
As his daughter remarked of this accident, "it was the beginning
ofthe end. By the fall the sciatic and .sacral nerves were bruised
His wife brought him home to l^ardstown in a carriage, but all that
affectionate care and nursing could accomplish under the best medical
advice, while prolonging life, afforded no permanent relief. Mr Har-
din soon realized that his recovery was doubtful, and that his concern
in the affa.rs of life drew to a close. His sufferings were great but
were borne with patient and philosophic fortitude. ' Manv wear>'
nights his neighbors and friends watched at his bedside. 'Amono-
these watchers was one, then a law student of Mr. Hardinâ€” since dis"
tinguished by many high offices and now attorney-general of the
United Statesâ€” A. H. Garland. " In his last illness," said Mr. Gar-
land, " I sat up many nights with him, and he was prettv much the
same 'Old Ben" he was when well." His negro man, .Hill, a faith-
ful and tried domestic, fulfilled to some extent the duties of nurse
which, however, fell chiefly upon Mrs. Hardin. He often interrupted
the tedium of confinement and suffering, and illustrated the saying,
"the ruling passion strong in death," by some humorous observation
One night as the weary hours dragged their slow length along,
Bill, who aspired to freedom (but to whom freedom would have maiti-
lestly been a misfortune), concluded it was an auspicious time to urge
his wishes. " Mas' Ben," says he, interrupting a protracted silence,
"what will become of poor Bill if you should die?" " Ah! Hill. T
don't know." answered the sufferer, and the matter dropped. After
the lapse of an hour or so. Bill concluded to introduce the subject
again: "Mas' Ben, you are mighty sick." "Yes, Bill. I am might)
sick." " I hope," rejoined the negro, " you is going to get well, but
I don't know what is going to become of poor Bill if >-ou should die."
" Well. Bill, I can tell you exactly what will become of you; I have
already made my will and appointed Tom Linthicum and Bill Johnson,
my executors. In a few months after my death. Tom Linthicum will
take you to the court-house some da\-, and there offer you at public
sale. There will be and and (naming several noted
6o8 BEN HAKDIN.
negro traders who bought slaves in Kentucky for the southern mar-
ket, and whom the negroes dreaded not one whit less than the devil
himself), and they will come up and look at you, and feel your arms,
and ask after your age and health, and what kind of work you can do,
and you will tell them that you are at least twenty years older than
you really are, and that you are sick half your time, and forty other
lies." Thus Mr. Hardin proceeded to relate all the details of Bill's
imaginary sale at public auction to the latter's utter discomfiture. Bill
would, undoubtedly, have been reduced to the verge of despair, but
in proportion as Mr. Hardin added horror to the picture, in that pro-
portion was Bill convinced that his master intended nothing of the
kind. In truth. Bill lived and died among Mr. Hardin's descendants,
the yoke of bondage resting on him considerable less heavily than the
freedom which war and revolution afterward brought him.
On another occasion Mr. Hardin related a dream to his family, to
the effect that he thought he had died and been buried; that six
months afterward he had returned to Bardstown, gone to the court-
house, and found court in session, and a will-case on trial. He soon
discovered that the controversy was among his heirs-at-law over his
own will, which was being contested because of mental incapacity in
the testator. He named the counsel in the case, the members of the
jury, and called over the witnesses, reciting the testimony of each,
repeating, with great gusto, the statements of certain very ignorant
witnesses who pronounced the testator of unsound mind. He
omitted none of the details of the supposed trial, but the humor of
the recital was rather too grim to be enjoyed by his anxious house-
On still another occasion he assembled his children and grand-
children to listen to his will, which he caused to be read. In
appointing his executors, he had not designated his son-in-law, Gov-
ernor Helm, as one of them, of which the latter complained. From
time to time. Governor Helm and Mr. Hardin had had their personal
relations more or less disturbed by various occurrences. The latter
was autocratic, the former independent. But the profound esteem
and attachment each felt for the other soon pacified these transient
differences. Possibly, a feeling of pique may have caused the
omission in the will, but Governor Helm was chagrined and morti-
fied, rather than offended. He felt that it would be construed as
indicating a lack of confidence on Mr. Hardin's part in his integrity,
which he knew was not his meaning.
PREPARING FOR DKATH. 6O9
He said nothing to Mr. Hardin himself, but when the matter was
mentioned by another, Mr. Hardin said he was entirely willing to
appoint Governor Helm one of his e.xecutors, but to do so would
require a codicil, and he had ridiculed and denounced codicils so often
in his speeches, that he could not, for a moment, think of adding
one to his own will. He suggested, hovv^ever, to one of his daugh-
ters, who manifested anxiety about it, that if she would re-write his
will, she might insert Governor Helm's name as one of the executors.
This was accordingly done.*
The long hours of suffering brought to his mind the importance of
preparing for death. Always a believer in the Christian religion, and
in the plan of salvation revealed in the Bible, }'et, he had from time
to time postponed accepting its terms. He now resolved to do so no
longer. He had not only studied the Bible, but had reflected on its
great truths profoundly. He called, as a rehgious adviser on the
occasion, Mr. McAllen, the pastor of the Methodist church in the
town. Mr. McAllen was of great piety and zeal, but unwisely under-
took to deal with Mr. Hardin as a " babe in Zion."
He not only dwelt on the promises of the Gospel, but gave equal,
or greater, prominence to the results that would follow their non-ac-
ceptance. After one of his visits, Mr. Hardin remarked: "That
man means well, but it seems to me that he would accomplish more
if he spent longer time talking of the love of the Saviour and less of
hell-fire and the devil."
At length, he professed that saving faith that brings ' ' the peace
that passeth understanding." He was received into the membership
of the Methodist Episcopal church, South. At his request, a num
ber of his most intimate friends were gathered in his own room, and,
with them, he partook of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper.
His frequent and earnest references afterward to his spiritual state.
left no doubt of his abiding confidence that the grace and mercy