David Bigelow Parker.

A Chautauqua boy in '61 and afterward: reminiscences online

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United States Supreme Court and test the constitu-
tionality of the law, because he thought, conscien-
tiously, that the law exceeded the powers of Congress.
Judge Bond joked him and said:

" Johnson, did you get your fee? "

" Yes," said Johnson. " They agreed to pay me
$2500 in advance, and that I got. Stansbury told me
he went down on trust, and he had never got any fee

Mr. Johnson told many incidents connected with his
long career in public life that were very interesting,
including incidents occurring in England. He also
told about going when a boy with his father to Phila-
delphia, and while there dining with General Cadwal-
ader of Washington's staff. Cadwalader pointed to a
new picture in the dining-room, an engraving which
had just been issued showing Washington and his staff
officers crossing the Delaware, and ridiculed it, and


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said they crossed in an old flat-bottomed scow, and that
Washington was morose and cross, and that the negro
who, with an assistant, was polling the boat over, com-
plained to him that the other gentlemen were seated on
the forward comer, which tipped the scow up so that
he could not handle it aright. Washington was walk-
ing back and forth at the other end of the boat, but he
went to the officers and fotmd General Knox sitting
on the gunwale and telling stories to the rest. Wash-
ington said to them, in language that could hardly be
repeated, to get into the middle of the boat and trim
ship, and they changed their positions. Cadwalader
said that was the only time that Washington spoke
while crossing the river.

The United States Courts in Virginia were held at
Richmond, Norfolk, and Alexandria, the United States
District Judge living at Alexandria; so I frequently
went to Alexandria to attend court, and while doing so
stayed in Washington, going back and forth. Some-
times my wife accompanied me, and when she did we
attended some of the receptions and parties at the
White House and at other places. I shall always re-
member an evening reception at General Sherman's
house, for it gave a glimpse into the family life and
simplicity of manners prevailing there. The reception,
which was by card, was very largely attended ; foreign
diplomats, army and navy officers aboimded, and the
house, which was quite a large one, was filled with
guests. I happened to stand where I could hear Gen-
eral Sherman's remarks for a time. A very tall, un-
usual-looking man came toward the receiving party,
escorting a blushing and handsome young lady. When
General Sherman saw them, he raised his hand and



Mrs. David B. Parker

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" Stop ! Now, Carter, remember your failings.
When you get up here and introduce that young lady,
beautiful as she is, don't you dare introduce her as
your daughter."

But Carter advanced, and General Sherman took the
daughter by both hands and said:

" I know who you are, but I will have to think a
little before I can tell your name." Then he spoke to
the people around and said, " I have held this young
lady on my knee when she was a baby, a little girl out
West; and this old fellow is one of the oldest friends
I have got in the world. When I reported as a Lieu-
tenant in. Florida, he was a post-trader and he has
been a post-trader ever since. Why, he is the oldest
fellow! He was an old fellow when the Rocky
Motmtains were heaved up, and he has lived there ever

" Now, General," remonstrated his victim, " you
know you are as old as I am."

*' Get out ! " said the General ; " why, your house
was a refuge for me when I was a little boy, just away
from home, sighing for something good to eat, and I
always got it at your house. This is Judge Carter of
Carter, Wyoming. He has the finest ranch in the
Western Country, and he supplies all the troops at Fort
Bridger and ever)rwhere else, I guess, with everything
they need. Why haven't you been in to see me,

"I called to-day," answered the Judge, "but you
were out, and I told your officers that I would come
in to-morrow."

" Now," said Sherman, " I bet you got this daughter
on here to buy her a trousseau."

" That 's right."




" Well, she has been raised at a fort, and I hope she
marries an army officer."

The young lady was blushing, but the father said
she was to marry an army officer.

" How many sons-in-law does that give you that are
army officers ? Five ? "

Judge Carter told him how many, and General Sher-
man said, " Well, I will have a good visit with both of
you before you go back."

A little later a young Second Lieutenant came for-
ward who had what anyone could see was a bride on
his arm. General Sherman stepped forward and shook
hands with him and said :

"Lieutenant, where do you belong?"

He told his regiment in Arizona.

" Oh, yes. Now you have introduced this lady as
your wife, how long has she really been your wife? "

" We were married yesterday in Pennsylvania."

" That 's what I thought. How long have you been
in the army?"

" I was appointed from the volunteer service, sir. I
am not a West Pointer."

" Oh, yes ; well, that 's fine. Now you have got to
give up this bride for a while. You might as well get
used to it " ; and General Sherman gave her his arm
and called his daughter to take the Lieutenant. So he
escorted that country bride in to supper, and his daugh-
ter accompanied the Lieutenant. Mrs. Sherman was
as easy and genial as the General himself, and both
seemed popular with everyone.

While I was Marshal I received an execution to sell
a quantity of smoking tobacco which was in a bonded
warehouse and had been offered for sale several times,
but which would not bring the amount of the tax, and




consequently could not be delivered. This was worth-
less tobacco that had been manufactured to substitute
for a like quantity of good tobacco which was ab-
stracted from the tx)nded warehouse during the riot of
corruption which prevailed in the Internal Revenue
Department about 1868. I offered the tobacco for sale
after advertisement, but no one would bid the amount
of the tax, and I was told that it could only be used
as a fertilizer or shipped to the West where sheep were
dipped in cheap tobacco. I received a letter from
Alfred Pleasanton, Commissioner of Internal Revenue,
instructing me to offer this tobacco for sale and sell it
to the highest bidder, purchase the necessary tobacco
stamps from the Collector of Internal Revenue and
affix them, and deliver the tobacco to the purchaser,
crediting on the amount paid for the stamps whatever
amount was received from the sale. The large storage
bills that were paid were given as the excuse for making
this disposition of the tobacco. I questioned the au-
thority of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue to in-
struct me to expend judiciary funds for such a purpose.
The First Comptroller's opinion was final in auditing
the accounts of United States Marshals ; so I sent the
letter to the First Comptroller at Washington, and
asked for instructions and information as to whether
the expenditure would be allowed in my accounts if
made. The Comptroller, who was named R. W.
Taylor, really did comptrol. The expenditures of all
the Executive Departments were kept within law by
him, and he was considered the watch-dog of the Treas-
ury and was most highly respected. My letter, how-
ever, was answered by William Hemphill Jones, Acting
First Comptroller, and I was told that the matter was
discussed before the Commissioner of Internal Rev-




enue wrote the letter, and that this course was decided
upon as best, and therefore I could make the disburse-
ment, and the amount, when approved by the Judge,
would be allowed in my accounts. Of course, I pro-
ceeded then to execute the order and placed the amount,
which I remember was about $800, in my next account.
The item, however, was disallowed by the First Comp-
troller. I placed it in the next account I rendered and
then gave a letter of explanation. I at once received
a reply from Comptroller Taylor saying that the allow-
ance was not authorized by law and would not be
passed at his office, and that I was forbidden to include
it in my accounts. I placed it in the next account again
without explanation, but when I happened soon after
to be in Washington and visiting his office, the chief
clerk asked me to go in and see Mr. Taylor about that
tobacco item. Mr. Taylor assumed a very severe air
and said :

" What do you mean by placing that illegal item in
your accounts after it has been disallowed and you
have been ordered not to place it in the accounts? "

" Mr. Taylor," I answered, " I made that disburse-
ment doubting the law, but with the full authority of
the First Comptroller of the Treasury. Therefore I
expect it will be allowed, and I shall continue to ren-
der it until my final accounting.'*

"You had not the authority of the First Comp-

"Was not the Acting First Comptroller of the
Treasury designated by the President of the United
States to act as First Comptroller while you were ab-
sent on your vacation ? " I asked.

He made no reply, but said, " I have held this office
since 1861, and I have never authorized a single viola-


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tion of law. My friends insisted on my taking a vaca-
tion, and when I came back I found such cases of mis-
takes as this in the office."

" I am very sorry, Mr. Taylor," said I, " but I cer-
tainly took every precaution. I wrote this office be-
fore making the disbursement."

" Say no more about it, it will be allowed."

His chief clerk took a walk with me and told me that
this worried the Comptroller almost as much as the
Supreme Court case. I asked him what the Supreme
Court case was. He said that the Marshal of the Su-
preme Court of the United States had in his accounts
the hire of some men to take care of one of the Justices
who was paralyzed, and the Comptroller struck out the
items. He received a message to call at the Supreme
Court, and went up there and was taken into the con-
sultation room where the Judges were. The Chief
Justice said to him :

" Mr. Taylor, you cannot stifle the Supreme Court
of the United States. One of our members being in-
capacitated from helping himself to attend our session,
but otherwise capacitated, hired the necessary attend-
ants to assist him, and the item must be paid."

" But such expenditures are not in the statutes," re-
monstrated the Comptroller.

" Mr. Taylor," said the Chief Justice, " the time
may come when Congress may fail to appropriate any
money for the Supreme Court and its expenses. Do
you think the Supreme Court would dissolve and per-
mit chaos to come upon our Government? No. It
would proceed to the Treasury of the United States,
and it would take from its vaults the money that it
needs for its support. Congress may, at some time,
fail to make necessary appropriation to enable the




members of this Court to hold its sessions, but this
Court will see that the means are provided. You pass
the item and such similar items as appear approved in
the Marshal's accounts."

Mr. Taylor returned to his office and said to the
chief clerk, "Add up the columns in the Supreme
Court accounts, and don't question the purchase of
brick houses or anything else."

There was a very large amount of bankruptcy busi-
ness transacted in the United States Courts in those
days, and there were also very many ante-bellum suits
brought to the United States Court for adjudication,
so that members of the bar from the entire State came
to Richmond to try these cases. I recall the present
Senator Daniel, a very handsome young man, lame
from a wound received while in the Confederate army,
and a brilliant pleader. He was called Major Daniel.
Colonel John S. Mosby came from Warrington and
appeared very modestly in the Court with cases he had.
He was a very quiet, unassimiing gentleman, with a
very strong face and wiry, active body. The old Vir-
ginia colonial families were represented at the bar by
such names as Barksdale, Randolph, Harrison, Henry
(grandson of Patrick Henry), Aylett, Gilmer, Wick-
ham, Allen, Conrad, Floyd, Rives, Wise, Mauvey,
Page, and others. I became well acquainted with ex-
Governor Henry A. Wise, who was very approachable
and kindly. He seemed to have many cases that it
could be plainly seen would not pay the attorney very
well, but which were efforts to secure redress from
wrongs. He even went into the lower courts and de-
fended negro clients, when he thought injustice was
being done. He was a grim-looking old veteran, angu-
lar and raw-boned, but a striking orator of the old-


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fashioned sort. Added to his long political career, he
served during the entire war in command of a brigade,
and was nearest to General Lee's person when the final
surrender took place. I heard him speak quite freely
concerning his part in the capture and execution of
John Brown, and he spoke of Brown as a misguided
but honest fanatic, and said he was a very brave man.
His son, John S. Wise, now of New York, practiced
law with his father at Richmond and was a popular
young lawyer. Incidents affecting many who had been
prominent in Virginia's history were often repeated
by elderly persons with whom I became acquainted.
I remember staying a few days at Callahan's, a resort
in the mountains among the springs, and the old pro-
prietor, named Dickson, told me of some visits of dis-
tinguished persons. He said that one day John Ran-
dolph of Roanoke came to his house in his carriage
with a coachman and one servant. Randolph's wizened
face and shrill voice were very striking, and he was
heavily wrapped up and had on the front seat of the
carriage the famous case of pistols he always carried.
He was given a room and had a fire built immediately,
although the weather was warm, and had his meals
served in his room, and declined to go to the parlors
in the evening and meet the guests of the house. In
the morning he departed. As he got into his carriage,
Mr. Dickson inquired where he was going, and Mr.
Randolph replied, " I am going where I damn please."
Near the house the road passed through a small stream,
on the other side of which it forked, going in three
directions. A very old signboard was up giving the
directions to various resorts in the mountains, but the
servants could not read it, and Mr. Randolph tried,
and it was so dim he could not make it out, so he called




back to the hotel, " Dickson ! Dickson ! Which road
do I take to the Warm Sweet Springs?" Dickson
replied, " Take either road you damn please," imitat-
ing Randolph's voice. The carriage at once turned and
came back, and the gentlemen on the porch said, *' Dick-
son, you better run. He will have those pistols out."
But when the carriage drove up, Mr. Randolph said,
" Dickson, I guess I will stay with you over Sunday.
Give me the same room," and he mixed amiably with
the guests and tried in every way to make himself

A prominent lawyer told me one day that he was
Chairman of the Committee on Entertainment when
Daniel Webster came to Richmond to deliver his very
great speech in the fifties, and that he went out as far
as Ashland, sixteen miles, with the Committee to meet
him. After they had been introduced, Webster said,
"Have you got any brandy? Mine is exhausted."
They found a flask that a passenger had, and Webster
drank from it. On arrival at Richmond they took him
to the Ballard Hotel and went with him to his room,
and the landlord inquired what would be wanted. Mr.
Webster said, " Bring me a bottle of your best brandy,"
iand drank from it constantly until the time of going
to the meeting. Democratic and Whig politics were
running very high, and the question of extension of
slavery in the Territories, and the bearing of the Con-
stitution of the United States on slavery, were all re-
ceiving the highest consideration from the people, and
Mr. Webster had been secured to make a great pres-
entation of the Whig side. When the time for the
meeting came, they took him to the State Capitol, and
he was to speak from the Senate porch to an immense
crowd which had gathered below him. There is no


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railing around this porch, and a fall would mean ten
or twelve feet. Mr. Webster's legs were very unsteady,
and a table was set well back from the edge, and the
Chairman of the Meeting and Committees, etc., occu-
pied seats. Mr. Webster, before stepping out from the
Senate Chamber on to the porch, looked in different
directions. He said, " Move that table to the edge of
the porch. Take that glass pitcher of water and the
glass from that table. Someone go and get an earthen
pitcher or mug and have in the pitcher brandy and
water, strong. Now, one of you take me by the arm
on either side and start your band of music. March
me forward to the table. Have no speech of presen-
tation." The gentleman told me that they walked for-
ward with him to the table, and the crowd commenced
cheering, and the presiding officer simply said, " Mr.
Webster." Mr. Webster, when they let go his arms,
got both hands on the table and commenced that great
address, lasting two hours, without fault or hitch, said
to be the greatest speech of his lifetime.

A very old gentleman told me that William Wirt,
Attorney General of the United States, who prose-
cuted Aaron Burr for treason, was a very brilliant
and highly beloved young man, but that he had an un-
controllable appetite for liquor; that he courted a
young lady and became engaged to her, but became so
besotted that she cast him off, telling him, however,
that if he would reform she would be glad to receive
him again. After this he became worse than ever, and
one summer's evening when the young people walked
out Franklin Street, their usual walk, Wirt was seen
lying in front of a low groggery in the suburbs, cov-
ered with flies and presenting a disgusting appearance.
The young lady to whom he had been engaged was of




the party, and there were jeers on the part of some of
her companions. She separated from them at once,
and went back and lifted bodily Mr. Wirt and drew
him to a place under a tree, where she left him with his
face covered with a lace handkerchief bearing her
name. It was said that Wirt, when he regained con-
sciousness, found the handkerchief, walked immedi-
ately out of the city and stayed a time with some rela-
tives in the country, and then returned to resume his
practice of law, and never afterwards drank a drop of
liquor. He married the young lady.

I occupied for a time a part of the house owned by
Mrs. Allan, the family being known as Scotch Allan,
one of the wealthy old families of Richmond. Mrs.
Allan was alone in a very large house, and I rented a
part of it. Her husband had raised Edgar Allan Poe.
Mrs. Allan told of the great brilliancy but the weak-
nesses of Poe ; that he was very loving in disposition,
but perfectly uncontrollable in his habits.

The colored people at that time felt a keen interest
in education and politics, were generally industrious,
and making the best of their opportunities. Appar-
ently but few could read or write. Occasionally one,
as was the case of a barber in Richmond, was a schol-
arly man. He had pursued his studies in the rear of
his shop with books which a gentleman brought him
from the libraries, and was said to be a fine Greek
student. There were some of the old-time colored
preachers whose sermons were almost ludicrous at
times. Rev. John Jasper, who preached the sermon
that a newspaper man made famous, " The Sun Do
Move," was one of them. I attended his service one
evening with a gentleman from Detroit, who was visit-
ing me, and who wished to hear one of the old-stylQ




colored preachers. When we entered the church, we
were shown with deference to seats, rough wooden
benches without backs, but we were disappointed be-
cause a white man, an exhorter who had accompanied
a Baptist revivalist from the North, conducted the
services. He exhorted sincerely, but was not an edu-
cated preacher, and had no eflfect whatever upon the
congregation. After he had preached three quarters
of an hour, Mr. Jasper arose, and putting on a second
pair of spectacles, reached his long bony arm over the
pulpit and said, " I done fergit that I was to make
some 'marks to the frens of little John Henry Jackson,
who was buried Tuesday evening." He then pro-
ceeded to speak to those friends and mourners. He
used language that was incomprehensible because it
was made up of high-sounding words that were not
words. They resembled words that he had heard, and
were used without regard to meaning or arrangement,
but his voice was magnetic and sjrmpathetic, and he
constantly waved his long arms to those seated in front
of him. In five minutes he had people in what was
called " the power " all over that church, shrieking
and exclaiming, " Bress de Lawd," and falling back
on their seats in apparently a faint. He- continued
about fifteen minutes, and I think that more than fifty
people were rising and screaming in the audience.
Most of the colored chtu*ches, however, had educated
preachers and large audiences.

I attended two or three political meetings that were
addressed by colored men. One elderly man, who was
a great exhorter and political speaker, swayed the
crowd by his eloquence and addressed them on the sub-
ject of " Taxation to Maintain Schools." It was at
Charlotte Court House, and a large part of the audi-




ence was white. John Robinson was the speaker, and
he said, in part :

" I understand that the voters, and especially the
colored voters of this old county of Charlotte, my
county, are thinking of voting against raising taxes
to maintain schools; and I came back here to my old
county to plead with you. I don't believe the report.
I can't believe that the colored men of old Charlotte
will sell their birthright for a miserable passel of par-
tridges. I remember when I was a boy, a slave, living
in your family, Colonel [pointing to an elderly gentle-
man sitting near], that there used to be talk about the
importance of raising money to send Massa Jack to
the Varsity and the young Missus away to school, and
you, kind-hearted old massa, did n't like to sell nobody,
never did like to sell nobody, but Missus she say the
money must be raised, and you say the commission
merchant in Richmond won't advance any more money
on the crops, so you think it over, and you keep think-
ing it over, and then you decide that that boy Dick is
a no-'count nigger; that he is the good-for-nothingest,
dirtiest no-'count boy in the country, and you might
as well sell him; and then next court week Sheriff
Snyder he get up on the box, and he say, * Gentlemen,
I wish to call your attention to a fine boy to be sold,
Richard, offered by the Colonel. The fact that he
is raised by the Colonel is sufficient guarantee that
Richard is a prime article. How much am I offered
for Richard ? ' So Dick is sold, and the money is sent
to educate your boys and your girls, and now we think
it is not too much for you to pay some little tax to
raise money to support common schools for poor people,
white and black."

His argument was well received by white and black.


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He was a powerful speaker on any subject among his
color, and I heard him say that he got to be a black-
smith and was sold for the highest price ever paid for
a colored man in that county, $1950, and bought and
paid for his own liberty before the war would have
given it to him. At that time colored people remained
in the country and did not flock to the cities as they are
doing now.

When I was a boy, a noted Baptist preacher named
Rathbone was a friend of my father, who was a Bap-
tist, and I often heard Mr. Rathbone preach. When I
was living in Richmond, he came to me bearing a letter
from my father, and said that he had come down to
attend the church dedication of an African Baptist

Online LibraryDavid Bigelow ParkerA Chautauqua boy in '61 and afterward: reminiscences → online text (page 15 of 30)