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John Barr.

Wit and humor of American statesmen; a collection from various sources classified under appropriate subject headings online

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Online LibraryJohn BarrWit and humor of American statesmen; a collection from various sources classified under appropriate subject headings → online text (page 8 of 10)
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see his imperious bearing in them. V
before, when the C/ar Ni« :
conspicuous personage :
telling how strangers knelt in his ;
finishing the narrative the
Benton :

"I suppose, Colonel, that you «
think of kneeling to the < 1 which he

responded, with his most imperial v.
"No, sir! No, sir I An Amerio
to God and woman,

*****

In 1856 Benton was rum.
Missouri (he left tl 1
opponent named Ti
the State, and on 1



164 Ulit and tmmor

stepped forward to speak, he began by saying,
in a meditative style :

"T-r-u-s-t-en Polk! T-r-u-s-t-en Polk! A
man that nobody trusts ; a knave in politics and
a hyprocrite in religion."



A few years before, Benton was running for
Congress in Missouri. He and his rival met
several times in public debate before their con-
stituents. On one occasion his opponent in-
dulged in some severe remarks upon Benton's
integrity, or rather lack of integrity, and in-
sinuated charges of a defamatory character.
Benton arose, walked up to him, and after look-
ing him fiercely in the eye for a moment, shook
his fist in his face, and shouted :

" You lie, sir ! You lie, sir ! I cram the lie
down your throat, sir ! "



In 1S15 Benton went to Missouri, then a Ter-
ritory, inhabited by a fierce population, where
his fights continued, with the usual result. What
the result was may be inferred from a declara-
tion he made in the Senate, after a Senator had
referred to what he called "a quarrel " of Ben-
ton's. "Mr. President, sir," said the great



ox Rmerican Statesmen

Missourian sternly, "the Senatoi is mis'.
sir. I never quarrel, sir j but I sometime

and whenever I fight, sir, a funeral fall)



A short time after Calhoun's deaf:,
said to Benton, "I suppose, Colonel, j
pursue Calhoun beyond the grave?" to which
he replied :

"No, sir! When Cod Almighty
hand upon a man, sir, I take mi: •



After completing his thirty years m the Senate,
or six lustrums, as it was the classical
the press to call it then, BentOO m
Missouri in consequence of his p •; the

slavery question in general, and the Kl
Nebraska bill in particular. Then the peO]
his district sent him to the House of R
atives fur a term. He W2S
trifles when he chose to think them
Among the gnats at which hi
strained was the opinion that the
March, and consequently the I

ended at midnight of I

noon on the fourth, a- unbroken U

it. So on the last morning the old j



166 vait anD Ibumot

made himself about as pleasantly sympathetic as
the trick mule of anecdote or the bull-in-the-
china-shop of tradition. To prove that Congress
had ceased to exist, that consequently the House
of Representatives could not possibly be in
session, he sat with his hat on, talked loudly,
romped about the floor, and finally refused to
vote or answer to his name when the roll was
called. At last the Speaker, the Hon. James L.
Orr, of South Carolina, picked him up, and put
an end to these legislative larks. " No, sir ; no,
sir; no, sir," shouted the venerable Missourian,
" I will not vote. I have no right to vote.
This is no House, and I am not a member of it."
" Then, sir," said Speaker Orr, like a flash, with
his sweetest manner, "if the gentleman is not a
member of this House, the Sergeant-at-Arms
will please put him out." And so this vast con-
stitutional question settled itself.



When Lord Elgin came to this country to
negotiate the reciprocity treaty between the
United States and Canada, a breakfast was given
in Washington by the Consul-General of British
North America. Among those present were
Lord Elgin, his Secretary Laurence Oliphant,
Thomas H. Benton, Caleb Cushing, Colonel Fre-



ot American Statesmen 169

mont, Gen. Isaac I. Stevens, who iraa .'.::•

killed in the battle of Chantillv ; Col. William
W. Snow, member of Congress from N< i i

Edwin Forrest, and quite a Dumber o( othi

After the guests bad been unite. 1 tin-
came to the old lawyer white with COO
He had invited Genera] Cushinji
Benton, and had just learned that I
deadly enemies. He feared some outbreak if
they met. He asked what he should do. The
old lawyer told him that he would M
him. He visited Colonel Denton and

"Colonel, you and Cushing have I
invited to breakfast with Lord Elgin. I be host
has just learned of the unpleasant relatio:
isting between you. There is some feai thai it
might not be pleasant for you to i . I*\c

come here to let you know be fo rehai
you may avoid the meeting if J

" You go and tell the host, sir, that
are my associates for the time being," 1
replied. " I shall treat Gener I I
guest entertained by a mutual fi
I've no doubt he will treat n
ner. I assure you there will be
as I am concerned, sir. and I have no
there will be any disturbance on hifl |

They met at the breakfast table I



168 TUait ano Ibumor

Benton addressed General Cushing, tipped his
glass to him and said: "General Cushing, a
glass of wine with you, if you please."

They both drank, but the entente eordiale did
not continue after they left the breakfast table.
On the next day they were enemies, and they
remained so as long as they lived.



CHAPTER XII
Lobby and Cloah-Room Yams

The cloak-rooms and lol pitol

are very often scenes of relaxation among our
legislators; there the rancor> of debate and the
bitterness of personal feeling are laid
all animosities are forgotten in the inten
of story and reminis< en< e. Nt hall oJ th<
things told in the cloak-rooms gel into print, but
here are a few of the late '

Thaddeus Steven • bill

in Congress which aroused the Opposition of the
combined Southern member-. He
brilliant speech in favor of it and equally bril-
liant speeches were made on the Othei
the upshot er once," Bays a

"happening to sit opposite to ti <

ting table in the library of a club, Mr I

lev, in his curious myopic fashion, with 1..



186 TiXflit ano Ibumor

his pen and his paper in the closest possible re-
lation, had for some time been making his usual
fly-tracks on a pad, when suddenly he raised
his head, noticed me, and handed across the
table some manuscripts with the remark : ' Read
that, it is not bad.' I took the paper, looked
at it directly, obliquely, and all other ways,
only to find it so much cuneiform character or
Norse runes. The sage noted my embarrass-
ment, reclaimed the manuscripts, and read me a
perfect gem of a short editorial which demolished
some humbug or other in a masterly way.
When he had finished, and I had applauded, he
remarked, triumphantly : ' There, I knew I could
read it when it was fresh, though to-morrow it
would puzzle me. But it makes no difference,
for there is a fellow in the Tribune office who
can read my stuff, hot or cold.' "



Mr. Jackson S. Schultz went one day to the
Tribune office to consult Mr. Greeley on some
political matter. He found the philosopher, as
usual, hunched up over his desk, and oblivious
of all surroundings. Mr. Schultz addressed
him, when, to his dismay, Greeley whistled
down the speaking-tube, gave an order, and
presently the lift came up with a five dollar bill,



ot Bmetican Statesmen

which, without raising his head, G
tended in Schultz's direction with the
" Go away, now. That is all I can do to i
The fact was that Greeley's charities
widespread and indiscriminate, that he i
prey to all the crows in town, and his first im-
pulse when he heard his name i ailed wa.-> that
the speaker was necessarily after money.



"When I was a young man," Baid Lawyer
Park of Aurora, " 1 was a political Speaker.
My father was living in Waukegan durinj
Presidential campaign in which Gena
was the nominee of the Republican ,
Horace Greeley the nominee of the ' Liberal
Republicans' endorsed by the I
was on a campaign tour in Wisconsin.
an audience that was with me in my sentim
When I had reached the warm;
my speech I said that e ve r y eminent m
had lived, or was living, had uttered
words that would live forever
quoted from Csesar's I
Grant's ■ I propose to fight out on this line
takes all summer.' Having
ings of great men. I >tood I
with oratorical anguish : ' Whal



188 -uait ano Dumoc

ever say ? ' There was a hush on the heels or
this inquiry that lasted until it was painful to
me. As I was about to proceed, a little man
with a head of fiery hair arose in a back seat in
the building and answered in a shrill vofce :


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Online LibraryJohn BarrWit and humor of American statesmen; a collection from various sources classified under appropriate subject headings → online text (page 8 of 10)