George Spring Merriam.

The life and times of Samuel Bowles online

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and South. He wiU puU the old Whigs out in the South and
North, and will cut across party lines as no other man. But
they won't take him unless they get terribly seared, or Grant
backs him. He is the only man Grant's support wouldn't hurt.
Probably you wiU sniff at these suggestions, but they are worth
bearing ia mind. Massachusetts would and could make a
powerful demonstration for Adams, but for a dozen men here
in the state, who fear they would be of less consequence under
his administration than under somebody else's.

There is to be a Bristow conference in New York next Wed-
nesday night, mostly local I suppose, but I have been invited.
I think I sha'n't go, however. There is too much cigar smoke
at such conferences for my head. Still, it is the best thiug to
do, — to organize for Bristow, and put in the best Kcks for him
along the hne. Blaine won't do ; he hasn't the spirit of reform,
and there are too many Marshes in the country who can destroy
him, I fear.

I have been living on milk a good deal this winter. It helps
my head and fattens my body, and I have done some days'
works that would be no discredit to you even — two and three
columns at a time. But it's dangerous business.

How is Watterson getting on in his new building 1 I don't
see any perfecting press doing so good work as yours. It
brings out small type better than any of the rest of them. But
minion is as small as you ought to use for reading-matter.

Father Chapin will pull through, I think, but they are mak-
ing an awful clamor against him now [the Ware Eiver transac-
tion being under legislative investigation]. He is altogether
too rich, and things do look so different now from what they
did two years ago [i. e., values have altered within the time


since tlie lease was made] — that's the trouble. I take some
comfort, after having been for years on the unpopular side in
abusing people, in being on the unpopidar side iu defending
some one.

To Frank B. Sanborn.

March 17, 1876.
I am very glad, and grateful too, that you have been able to
do so much justice and give so much attention to Robinson
["Warrington"] and his memory, this week. It was a great
trial to me that I could not be at Maiden and Concord. I was
in Boston Saturday and Sunday to attend a newspaper meet-
ing, but my head has been so bad the last ten days that I could
and did go nowhere else, and remained shut up in the house,
and did not hear of his death until Saturday evening, — too late
to see you, as I should have tried to do. The fact is, I have
had to make the choice between neglecting altogether the
paper or everything else. I am too much wounded to do two
things, and the paper seems to demand the first place, both on
public and private accounts. I can only trust that my friends
will discover this, and be more generous to me than I am
obUged to seem to be to them because of it. It is a great com-
fort to aU of us who have really known Robinson, to see the
just appreciation and rich tribute which his death calls out
now from all quarters.

To H. L. Bawes.

May 22, 1876.

Ah, my dear Dawes, i£ you only woidd " let us alone ! " More
or less interference ! There would be no trouble in this district
in sending first-class delegates to Cincinnati, in sympathy with
the rest of Massachusetts, but for your office-holders — some of
them forced upon the district against its will — and the men
who control and direct. It is the inspiration and leadership
coming down from you through certain channels that is degrad-
ing and weakening the party in this district, making it a
hindrance rather than a help to reform, and threatening just
now to misrepresent the party and the district at Cincinnati, to
cheapen its power, and make it almost an exception among the

LETTEES: 1873-1877. 351

districts of Massachusetts. My point is simply, that as long as
these men are allowed to misrepresent you and exercise your
power in the district, they should have at least the hint that it is
to be well exercised. I have no motives in finding fault in this
matter, save my hopes of the Republican party, my personal
local pride, my regard for your poUtical future, and my desire
to have everything in aU parties of the best. Selfishly viewed,
this local degradation and perversion of the party machine is
only strengthening and magnifying the Republican and myself,
and making it very easy for the district to be swept perma-
nently out of the hands of the Republican party. Remember,
you said in so many words two years ago that you were going
with our sort of fellows in Massachusetts ; yet if not under your
direct influence, indirectly by it, and in your name, your dis-
trict is lagging behind aU the rest of the state, and the only
record yon have made during this campaign, so far, — the
record of an interviewer, — is against all this reform uprising,
which has been so auspicious in the commonwealth, and which
promises so much, except in your own district, for the future of
the Repnbhcan party of Massachusetts.

To his Wife, in Blandford.

Sakatoga Springs, August 7, 1876.
I have been rather poorly with dyspepsia and its pains since
I came over PViday, but am better to-day. I have met a dis-
tinguished doctor here from Cincinnati, Bartholo, — like Dr.
Smith, only more thorough and scholarly, — and am going to
try his theory of my troubles and their cure. The theory is
not very different from the others', but he is more exact and
simple in his definitions. His treatment is dieting altogether —
no medicine — -he wants me to begin by hving for a few weeks
on nulk exclusively — a giU every three hours — then a choice
diet which he is to prescribe. He doesn't want me to stop
work. I am so impressed with his ability, and he is so positive
that Tom's trouble cannot be what Dr. Smith says it is, that I
am going back to Springfield to-morrow with him, on his way
to Newport, for the purpose of having him see Tom and con-


suit with. Dr. Smith about the ease. My present purpose is to
return here the next day. I have ah-eady begun the gill of
milk every three hours, and nothing else. It is not satisfying
for the price, and I expect to get ferocious.

Springfield, August 9, 1876.

I have finished two days of my milk diet. I am relieved of
some of my ailments — but I am "powerful weak," and un-
equal to any labor. In a day or two I am to have a cracker —
tlien soon an egg — on slowly to broths, and finally to meat,
fruit, and vegetables. It is an intelligent experiment, and,
since there seem to be new necessities for living and working,
altogether worth my faithful trying.

Saratoga Springs, August 14, 1876.

I wish. I was on the Blandf ord hill with you and the infants
this birthday of yours. But I am not and can't be. It is hot
here, and I am not very lively. StiU, my experiment in the
art of living and getting well seems reasonably hopeful. I do
not grow weak, — on the contrary I believe I feel stronger and
better than I did. I eat now a httle bread or cracker twice a
day, and drink about three pints of Tnilk in the twenty-four
hours. It is all I want of that — and the hunger for foodjs
singularly controllable. I should like it — but it is not im-
bearable to go without it.

Tom wiU tell you abomt life here. It is pretty gay for those
who have a taste and a power in that direction. For invalids
and milk-drinkers — why, it gives amusement to look on.

I pray you continue to get strength. I hope you will feel
able and willing to stay in Blandf ord far into if not through
September. I shall have just the leisure and strength for
housekeeping when I get back, and will put things straight

I do not know what to do about the Centennial. I want
you and the children to go a good deal more than I want
to go myself. Indeed, I am hoping some way to escape it
for myself.

letters: 1873-1877. 353

To General W. F. BarUett.

September 6, 1876.

Thanks for your very kind note. We have been abused
enough by Republicans because of that article to make any
praise of it agreeable. And your approval is always very
grateful. It is a narrow line that divides us as to the Presi-
dency. Whichever is elected, we shall have better govern-
ment, but I am confident that all in. all it will be easier and
more complete with Hayes. And there will be a hard fight
either way witli the rascals and the idiots.

You and your sickness have been on my mind a good deal
all summer. I meant to have been in Pittsfield long ago to
see you, and, extraordinaries excepted, I shall go either this
next Saturday or some day next week. But, with the excep-
tion of a fortnight at Saratoga, I have been very closely fol-
lowed by care all the season, and have not been away from
home even for a day.

I hope to-day will realize the promise of last night at
Worcester. [This refers to the Democratic state convention,
at which C. F. Adams was nominated for governor.] If so, we
shall have a revolution, in Massachusetts at least. I was most
agreeably surprised to find so many of the Democratic leaders
so earnestly for Adams.

Of course you would be brave under your afflictions. I
pray they may be brief, and that your body may yet answer
once more to your spirit.

To Colonel Bobert Pomeroy, after the death of General Bartlett.

December 18, 1876.

My deae old Bot : So it is over. I return the slips, and one
or two others, which I presume you have, however.

1 couldn't quite say aU I feel of Bartlett in print. You must
carry your audience with you, and not many of mine knew him
as I did. In a public sense he was the greatest comfort 1 had,
because so long as there are such men no one could justly
despair of the republic. I believe there will be, now, inspira-
tion and strength from his grave, and that, dying, he may
Vol. II.— 23


seem even to wield an influence that, living, had been denied

To you aU, and especially to her and to them — the wife and
mother and children — my tenderest sympathy goes and abides.

To Senator Newton Booth.

December 8, 1876.

... I think you made more out of the campaign, and lost
less, than any other man. Your speeches were the best —
of the sort — and you seem to have fully reconquered your
position in the party every way. I pray you use it wisely !
We are at the final forks of the roads. We shall come through
— no doubt of that. But it is the final break-down of the Re-
publican party. And I have got through shedding tears over
that prospect. Once the Democratic party was the great
obstacle to reform politics; now the Republican machine
blocks the way.

I took out a patent, long ago, for the Ten Commandments as
a party platform. But thinking of your possible infirmities, I
have reduced it to two planks — first. Thou shalt not he ; second.
Thou shalt not steal. Is yours better than this 1 Certainly we
can make no machine work that doesn't have some moral
principle below and behind it in the people who run it.

To George W. Smalley.

January 18, 1877.

It is almost compensation for having you in England, — the
pleasure of reading your letters. There are a good many of us
who suspend our profanity on the Tribune at large, when we
come to the special London correspondence.

There isn't anything especially new. I am getting through
the winter personally pretty well — ^with a good deal of head-
ache and nervous dyspepsia and bleeding of the nose, — but
still gaining flesh, doing my work easier, and, I think, in a
sweeter frame of mind generally. Perhaps this is partly because
the Bepubliccm is recognized as having made the place tor itself

LETTEKS: 1873-1S77. 355

that it has sought to make, that it is receiving a great deal of
commendation and many new subscriptions from the best sort
of folk all over the country-, and that, in spite of hard times
and very dull advertising, it starts off the year with an im-
proved business and a small margin over expenses. Ah me,
what an opportunity the Tribune has missed ! I believe I feel
sadder and crosser over that than I do comfortable over the
BepiMiean's advantage. Indeed, the latter owes its place to
the neglect of the opportunity by the others more than to any
real virtue aad power of its own.

As to politics, you see all there is. Yet there is a good deal
to be felt. I tliinlr I never saw the subtle, unexpressed thought
of the American people in one or two directions so influential,
so permeating the mind of the coxmtry. It is very odd that it
doesn't get more expression ; but the fact is, the thinking is in
difEerent directions, and to a certain extent contradicts and
neutralizes itself — one thought being that TUden is, on the
whole, fairly elected, and the other, the old deep distrust of
him and of the Democratic party. It is impossible to get up
any excitement. The Democratic efforts to arouse the masses
are a ridiculous failure. The business men won't speak out,
and while everybody is keeping up a devil of a thinking and
talks freely in private, there isn't any public utterance save
through the daily newspapers and the cheaper sort of politi-
cians. I think the community can be fairly divided into about
three equal classes — one, that is cocksure Tilden is elected
and ought to be inaugurated, anyhow ; another, that Hayes is
ditto, ditto ; and the third, that doesn't care which is President,
really, if only his path to the place be peaceful and supported
by more authority than he has yet got. But the majority of this
third class believe that Tilden is entitled to the Louisiana vote,
though rather wishing that he wasn't.

If Hayes is President, I am not quite so hopeful as I was of
the best set of men going into his cabinet. The other set got
scared two or three weeks ago, and I am afraid made him give
bonds on the subject. StiU, he wiU have to shake off the
rascals pretty sharply. If Tilden has the chance, he wiU cer-
tainly appoint Adams secretary of state, and I think a Hayes


EepubKcan also to Ms cabinet — I hope Hayes himself. He
has got to break with the worst elements of his party, and I
fancy nobody sees this or accepts it more fully than himself.

We have unexpectedly beaten BoutweU here, and shall prob-
ably elect Hoar — possibly only Bullock — instead.

To Senator Booth.

January, 1877.

. . . You see the BqiuhUccm was the first to suggest the
Supreme Court [as arbitrator of the disputed Presidency], and
got no end of kicks for it. Wasn't it in newspaper human
nature to say, " I told you so," when great men like you, from

" the most magnificent country of the world, by G , sir ! " —

in the presence of whose magnificent nature, stealing a rail-
road and robbing a bank and walloping the Chinese rise to
Christian virtues,— adopted it? You must pardon something
to human vanity, even in the rural districts and in the winter
time with the thermometer below zero.

. . . You seem to hold violent views of Tilden. He is a
good deal better than his party, and wiU prove so if he has a
chance. That isn't saying much, I agree.

Remember that the Bepublican is trying to make a newspaper,
and not running a party nor even counting the votes. But if
any of you fellows can invent a better general scheme than
this, I beg you to try your hands. I am getting to feel supreme
indifference which man you count in. AU I ask and aU the
country asks now really is that you do it in a way that wiU
stand fire, not simply of the barbaric hordes from the Maumee,
but the moral fire of history.


A Glaxce at the "Republican."

THE end of the story is almost reached. Let us glance
back over some of the features of the man's life
which have been neglected while we were following the
course of events.

The contents of the many volumes of the Daily Repub-
lican, for the period of thirty-three years in which Mr.
Bowles was its editor, represent the work of many hands
besides his, but it is hardly an exaggeration to say that
every page shows his inspiration. There is no way of
adequately describing the quality of the newspaper to
one who has not seen it, any more than a character or
a face can be reproduced in words. No biography is
reckoned complete without a portrait of its subject ; and
the biography of an editor must fall short of perfection
so long as it does not include an exact reproduction of
one issue of his newspaper.

The reading-matter of one number of the Republican
in its later years would make about seventy-five pages
like this one. The first impression the paper makes is of
a handsome face ; the letter being a clear and open one ;
the only type, minion, except a very sparing use of non-
pareil. Of the eight pages, one is devoted mainly to
editorials ; the larger part of another to telegraphic dis-


patches ; the Springfield and New England news occupies
a third; and correspondence, book reviews, selections,
etc., are distributed among the advertising pages. The
professional journalist notes at once the orderly arrange-
ment of each department, the clearness and condensation
of the news, the good taste in all matters of form, the
thoroughness of editing. Judged as a newspaper, per-
haps the most striking quality is the evenness of the
work. Nothing is slighted. The item in some out-of-
the-way corner about a murder on a Texas ranch is as
good a piece of workmanship of its kind as the editorial.
Taking an average number of the paper during the last
half-dozen years of Mr. Bowles's life, the editorial page
has first some two columns of paragraphs, from twelve
to twenty in all, — news, comment, jest, — attractive and
appetizing, yet with conviction and purpose running
through all. Then follow usually three or four longer
discussions, from a quarter to a full column or over in
length; and then another column of "Note and Com-
ment" — items of one or two pithy sentences each. No
style of newspaper writing is more liable to abuse than
the paragraphic. To so shape the paragraph as to com-
bine brevity and pungency with fairness of statement
and solid sense is an extremely difficult art, and in this
art Mr. Bowles was a master.

The department of New England news is an instance
of good arrangement. First, under small heads, are given
the prominent events of the past twenty-four hours in
Springfield ; then comes a column or two of minor city
items; then follows each of the closely neighboring
towns; then each of the western counties by itself;
next, eastern Massachusetts ; then, separately, the other
New England states. The arrangement seems simple
and obvious enough, but such things make a part of the
difference between a weU-edited newspaper and one


"put together with a pitchfork," as some of the most
pretentious newspapers continiie to be.

Among the early surprises of the novice in tlfe Repub-
lican of&ce, — often just graduated from college, — was
the discovery that writing editorials is but a small part
of the journalist's business, and that a great many other
things must first be learned. He found that the writing
of a news item ranks among the fine arts. To give the
facts of a trifling incident with accuracy, clearness,
brevity, and readableness is no small achievement. Said
Mr. Bowles to one of his pupils: "Don't suppose that
any one will read through six lines of bad rhetoric to
get a crumb of news at the end." Another of his direc-
tions was: "Never begin a news item by giving the
time and place — that fails to attract the reader's atten-
tion." To a bright beginner of a few months' standing

he said: "E , when will you be able to make a good

itemt There's G has been here two years, and is

just learning to do it." In every part of the paper he
pruned away verbiage remorselessly — no matter if it
was in a costly telegraphic dispatch. He used to tell his
young men, in writing an editorial : " Put it all in the
first sentence."

A zest and sparkle ran through every part of the
paper. Mr. Bowles's principle was, " Make every de-
partment such that everybody wOI want to read it."
Sometimes the drollest paragraph would be in a column
of religious news. A touch of poetry might be found
in a city item. The spirit the chief inspired in aU his
workers recalled epic's reply to the young painter who
asked him what he mixed his colors with : " "With
brains, sir!" His art as journalist was too fine to be
expressed in any set of formulas. "The style is the
man." His universal interest in humanity, in literature,
in nature ; the epigrammatic character of his thought ;


the humor, the audacity, the common sense; — these
qualities impregnated the whole paper. " It is the only
paper I%ver care to read through," said a woman. Its
editor knew how to make politics interesting to women
and millinery interesting to men.

In the general tone of the Republican the quality which
was most widely blamed in its later years was its cen-
soriousness. As to this the fundamental truth was that Mr.
Bowles was an idealist living in a very imperfect world ;
that he had a keen eye and a bold temper ; and that he
saw public life full of shortcomings, the press full of
apologists, and the community often absorbed and
apathetic. The public, which puts an exaggerated value
on good nature, did not fully appreciate the service his
sharp truth-speaking did it. He might have borrowed
the words of Socrates in his Defense : " I am a sort of
gadfly given to the state by the gods; and the state
is like a great and noble steed, who is tardy in his motions
owing to his very size, and requires to be stirred into
life ; and aU day long and in all places I am always fast-
ening upon you, arousing and persuading and reproach-
ing you." "What heightened the need of such sharp
criticism was that the great majority of newspapers were
by their partisan character professional defenders of
their party friends. It was said of the BepuhUcan that
it assumed the oflee not of judge but of prosecuting
attorney. The partial truth in the allegation had for its
set-off the fact that most of its contemporaries took the
office— as far as regarded members of their own party—
of attorneys for the defense. In such a situation there is
forced on the independent journalist an undue share of
the work of fault-finding.

Yet undeniably Mr. Bowles sometimes overdid the
part of censor. From choice and habit, the BepuhUcan
gave the combative method too great a preference over


the conciliatory. Something of this was due to the
exigencies of making every day a readable and piquant
sheet. It kept its readers always on the alert, always
interested, but in entertaining them it sacrificed some-
thing of the power to win and lead them. Mr. Bowles's
sharp and pungent quality imparted itself to his assist-
ants, and sometimes in them it degenerated into rude-
ness, — the rapier became a bludgeon.
A friend once wrote to him in a private letter :

'' It seems to me that a newspaper should be governed by the
same principles which a gentleman follows in his personal con-
duct. For instance, a gentleman does not consider it a point
of honor to never make or own a mistake. His point of honor
is when he does make a mistake to frankly acknowledge and
repair it. Why should not a newspaper do the same 1 "

!Mr. Bowles in reply asked for permission to print the
letter, saying he should like to discuss the questions it
raised. The permission was given, but the article was
never written — crowded out probably by the press of
other matters. It would have been most interesting to
see his treatment of the subject. In one of the obituary
notices of him the criticism was made, that he held
that a journalist had necessarily a code for his profes-
sional conduct which sometimes reqtiiredhim to do things
that in his private capacity he would not do. One fan-
cies that if he knew of this censure, he woidd have been
glad to come back from any other sphere long enough to
make his defense. But no one can say just what that
defense would have been. In a sense it is unquestion-
ably true that a man's official position may call on him
for a different line of action from that which he would
follow in a private capacity. The great law, " Thou shalt
not kill," is set aside by the soldier when he strikes down
his foe in the field. The judge before whom a criminal

Online LibraryGeorge Spring MerriamThe life and times of Samuel Bowles → online text (page 29 of 48)