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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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1 Go West, you damned fool.' The audience
howled and yelled and fairly rolled from their
seats. I didn't finish my speech. The red-
haired man who had unwittingly punctured my
oratory had broken up the meeting."



When Greeley broke with Seward and Weed,
Mr. Jones told him that he would probably get
the worst of the quarrel, but Greeley replied
that he had not wintered and summered with
them twenty years for nothing.

"And yet," said he, "I feel very much as
the drover did who took a drove of hogs a long
way, and disposing of them at a loss, was asked
what he got out of the enterprise. He replied,
1 1 had the company of the hogs.' "



The New York Herald was at one time, in a
way that could, at the pleasure of its readers, be
construed to be either serious or sarcastic, urging
that Horace Greeley should be chosen Senator



01 American Statesmen

of the United S

James Gordon Bennett : "There ia m k

est in the vigorous support . Mr

Greeley for the Senate." • > Mr.

Bennett, " I think I prould be

fool in the Senate as anywhere d



CHAPTER XIV
" The Man in Possession "

When old Zach Taylor came into the Presi-
dency, persons in Washington soon began to tell
him there was one public servant the Govern-
ment couldn't do without ; they said they had
come to express the hope that the old General
and rather unexperienced President would per-
mit them to inform him of it. This piece of in-
formation and advice was systematically dropped
into his ear at frequent intervals. At first he
paid little attention to it, but finally took note
of the fact that a certain John Hobby, who for
twenty odd years had held the important office
of Assistant Postmaster-General, was the official
the Government couldn't get along without.
The communications became so frequent that
one day, as the last man disappeared, old Zach
broke out with this question :

"Captain Harry! Who in the devil is this
man Hobby everybody is saying we can't get
along without ? ' '

The General was informed about the official.
190



ot Bmertcan Statesmen

"We must attend to the W'c

are liable to be m trouble about bii
We must be prepared. He is liable

our hands, and then the devil will I •
Seems to me the man who can't I is the

one to turn out while the Government ii
condition to meet the em

out, Captain Harry, and don't wait I We'l
whether or not he can't be spared.
the b i laptaiu I "

* * ~ *

" If cleanliness is next to god.,
man who has been at the National <
three months in the interest of a i
wm< h he is sure will save the Government mil-
lions annually, "then the a
Congressman must be more in the

common lot. I keep a little memorandum, a
diary I reckon you would call it, of the
makers on whom I have called in li.:-
to talk this affair of mint
OSity I write in the little book the
call. In three-fourths of the calls I have this
entry :

•• • Senator was in his bath.'
vary the monotony I write-. ' .iking

his tub.'

" Then I find an entry like this:



192 IftHit ano •fcumor

" ' Met Senator in corridor and got an oppor-
tunity of presenting my case. He listened until
I thought I had him landed. Told him the
scheme would save the Government a million a
year. He wanted to know why I didn't spring
it. Told him I had no spring-board. That it
would take $500 to get the board. Said he was
just starting for a bath and asked me to see him
later. Saw him later about a dozen times, on
his way to take a bath every time I saw him.' "



Just before a certain November election, the
President called a Cabinet meeting and expressed
the desire that every member be present. The
hour fixed for the conference was 2 p. M. At
that time every Secretary was on hand except
Uncle Jerry Rusk. The President waited and
waited for him before proceeding with business.
Finally Mr. Rusk was seen coming up the walk,
and Secretary Noble went down the steps to
hurry him up.

"Well, at last," said Mr. Noble to Mr. Rusk,
as the two came within speaking distance, ' ' the
tail end of the Administration comes wagging
along."

" The tail end, eh ? " replied Mr. Rusk, "I'm
the tail end, am I? Well, sir, I'll let you



of Bmectcan Statesmen

know, sir, that it takes a good tail and
and a bushy tail tu keep the flies off th
istration ! "

******

William II. Seward used to tell BOOM inl
ing stories of his advent into politi
him greatly, he used t
depicted upon the

heard of him, but had never >een biro i -
He was so slight of figure and SO
that it seemed impossible that iie < ould I ■<
tne brilliant William EL S
had heard so m u h. Mi. Seward u
tnat the young man who iras i.
taller, and of splendid physique, had a
deal better chance to get along .
the little fellows, such as he

One day at the seashore he was mil
a famous politician is M: Sen rtL

"Seward? You COTOC from New \
State?"

" YtSt that is my bom

"Well, I have heard there who

they say is

self, and the one that the V.
ernor last vear. I >- 1 fOU happen '

Perhaps he is a rel..: ;rs? "



194 Taatt ano Ibumor

He used to tell another story that seemed to
give him great joy to repeat. When he was a
member of the State Senate the first time he re-
ceived a message from one of the most distin-
guished politicians in New York asking for an
interview. Mr. Seward felt pleased to be hon-
ored thus, and arraying himself in his Sunday
clothes he went to call on the distinguished man.
He was received in the parlor and the politician,
while courteous, was cold and distant, treating
him with utmost formality. Mr. Seward said :
" I thought perhaps you had some special busi-
ness with me."

" No, sir, I do not think of any; in fact I
supposed you were paying me a call of mere
respect."

"But I received a message from you."
" I do not remember to have sent one. I am
expecting this afternoon a visit from Senator
Seward. Maybe my request has miscarried. I
did not catch your name. ' '

"Why, I am Senator Seward, General."
The politician arose from his seat, went
towards Seward, put his hands on his shoulders,
and said, "Well, Senator, you will pardon me,
I know. I supposed you were a young beau
who had called with a lurking desire to meet
my daughter. Let me apologize by saying that



ot American Statesmen 196

you have indeed an old head on young shoul-
ders."



Another story Seward told was of a I
tion he had while Governor of the State. He
gave it in honor of Millard Fillmore. A .
many people knew neither Seward DOT Fillmore
by sight. Fillmore was a splendid specime
sturdy manhood, nearly six feet in height. He
stood at Seward's left, and the diff< ■:
tween the men was striking. Of the tl
that passed by those who were not a
with either Seward or Fillmore saluted Fill
as Governor, and he turned to Seward
said : " Why do so many people mistake
call me Governor ? "

"Ah," said Seward, "it is be the

popular mind, there is an instinctive fa

t office should be filled by a man who is
physically as great as you are. Fillmore.
people see me they think some mistake

made, and that in some way or Other I
been chosen ( rovernor."

******

There was in the office of the

District Attorney, ting man * -mess

it was to attend to the



196 "CUit an& f>umoc

young man on the day in question was reclining
in a chair with his feet cocked on a desk. He
was industriously puffing a cigar. There was a
knock at the door.

" Come in," yelled the clerk. The door
opened and two gentlemen entered.

"Well, what's wanted?" the clerk said in
an insolent tone, without changing his position
or removing the cigar from his mouth.

" Is Mr. McKeon in ? " the elder of the two
visitors inquired politely.

"No, he's out of town," replied the clerk
gruffly.

"I am very sorry," the visitor went on, ap-
parently not noticing the clerk's insolence; "for
I have not seen him since we were in Congress
together."

"So," muttered the clerk in a tone that
plainly expressed " I don't care a continental."

" Can I leave him a line? " the visitor asked.

" Yes, you'll find pens and paper over there,"
answered the clerk pointing with his thumb at a
dirt-begrimed table in the corner.

The visitor sat down and wrote a line on a
small piece of paper, which he handed to the
clerk, who glanced at it. Down came his feet
with a thump on the floor. On the paper was
written "Franklin Pierce."



of Bmerican Statesmen

The visitors were the President of the United
States and his private secretary. When the
clerk recovered from his astonishnu :
alone. From that day there was a no
change in the reception in that ofl

******
The Hon. John W. Ward of the mil
metropolis of Korewille, Miss., in of

jocular turn. Weary of munici:
recently tendered to Governor Ames hi
tion of the office of Mayor in the wo: Is 1

"I hereby beg le„
tender nv.

>.ich office [was
headed predecessor, which with the in:

f the
American people. 1

In thus drawing off the judicial en:
governed the haunting I

inordinately rich if I continue to hoi:

e posit :

and brother may be

at prefers

of ptTi

'.'. Jewell,

: . -



198 TDCUt ano tmmor

business," and did not propose to tolerate any
unbusinesslike proceedings in the department
under his charge. For instance, he issued an
order discontinuing the rather loose practice
which had obtained of allowing the department
clerks to draw " advance pay " under certain
circumstances. Unfortunately one of those gen-
tlemen, who had postponed until December his
usual summer vacation — which he then pro-
posed to enjoy as his honeymoon — found the
new rule likely to seriously interfere with his
visions of bliss, and the chief of his bureau un-
dertook the task of endeavoring to induce the
Postmaster-General to make an exception in so
peculiar and interesting a case. Governor
Jewell, however, declined to grant the request.
" The Post-Office Department cannot insure
Mr. 's life," he observed, " and the Post-
master-General cannot violate his own orders;
but," he added, "the young man's word must
be kept and the young lady must not be disap-
pointed, so I'll take the risk myself; " and
drawing his individual check in favor of the
clerk for the amount of the latter' s monthly
salary, he thereby cut the Gordian and rendered
feasible the tying of the hymeneal knot.

Assistant Secretary of War, George D. Mei-



ot American Statesmen

klejohn, was said to do more work every day
than any great merchant in the country. His
virtues in this line were made known by a
gressman, who told the story of his experience :
"Say, there's a man in the Department there
who does something ! Just think of it, a fellow
who draws a big salary and earns it — more than
earns it — by hard work. Perhaps you think
I am joking, but I'm not. I'm in earnest, in
dead earnest ! I had a life-and-death matter on
hand. I half killed myself getting the papers
ready. It took me a week, ami, although I
never work except when 1 have to, I can put in
just as good licks as any one else when it's nec-
essary. The papers made a big bundle, as big
nearly as a tombstone, and just as intere
I took them to the War office on Saturday, Sat-
urday at four o'clock, and gave them to Meikle-
john. He says, 'Come in Monday morning.'
I wanted to laugh, but didn't. I knew, how-
ever, I'd have to wait two or three week
was SO sure, I'd have bet on it, and I'm not a
betting man. Monday morning I happened to
be in the building on another matter. As I
passed Meiklejohn's door I thought I'd go in and

I did. I almost fell dead. There wnc my

papers ready for me, signed; I could scarcely

thank him, I was so dumfounded."



CHAPTER XV

Senatorial Courtesy

A story is told of the time when Col. Alex-
ander McClure of Philadelphia was occupying the
chair in the Legislature at Harrisburg. He was
rushing bills through as fast as the titles could
be read, when a member in a remote corner of
the hall arose and shouted for recognition.
Finally the presiding officer asked in severe
tones :

u For what purpose does the gentleman rise ? "

u I desire to offer an amendment to the pend-
ing bill," shouted the member.

" The gentleman is too late," promptly replied
Colonel McClure, " he can offer his amendment
to the next bill."



Senator Palmer of Michigan was presiding in
the Senate chamber one day when Sawyer was
putting bills through as fast as he could say,
" The ayes have it." As one bill was being put
through the hopper a Senator ventured to rise
200



of American Statesmen aoi

and say to the Chair that he had listened very
carefully and he was sure the ayes did not have
it. With perfect good nature Senator Palmer
replied, "The ayes always have it when I am in
the chair," and passed on to the next bill on the
calendar.



Mr. Vest of Missouri was making a speei h in
the Senate when first Mr. Peffer arose and
to speak, and then Mr. Sherman, all three ad-
dressing the Chair at the same time. Mr. Vest
looked amazed, and after a minute's hesitation
called out :

"Mr. President, Mr. President."

The President paid no attention to Mr. Vest,
however, when the Missouri member changed
his tactics by declaring his desire to make a par-
liamentary inquiry. This appeal iras not lost
on the President.

" The gentleman from Missouri will state it."
he said, ignoring Mr. Peffer and Mr. Sherman.

"I believe I was add •'ne Sena-

had the floor," said Mi. Vest, "but it
that I have no longer got it. It 'I i
any other way I rise to .1 parliamentary inquiry
to find out how I lost it."



202 XUtt ano Ibumor

If an official report of the Senate had been
accurately kept, among other things the journal
would have contained what follows :

Senator — Mr. President, I rise to a question
of personal privilege.

The President — The Senator from Maine will
proceed.

The Senator — The President is smoking and
it is very offensive to the Senator from Maine
unless the President has an extra cigar which
will permit the Senator from Maine to be so-
ciable.

The President summoned his page.

The President — The Chair always endeavors
to treat Senators with due courtesy and now pre-
sents his compliments to the Senator from Maine.

The Senator from Maine lights his cigar, and
the Senate proceeds to a discussion of legislative
appropriations.

During the course of his recent speech on the
Philippines, Spooner of Wisconsin held up a
paper which he said was a letter written by Gen-
eral Lawton some time before his death.

' ' Do you know it was written by him ? ' ' asked
Pettigrew of South Dakota, who had previously
expressed doubts of the authenticity, and had
tried to cast a cloud over it.



of Smerican Statesmen 203

"The Senator reminds me," said Mr. Spooner,
"of a lawyer who was defending a prisoner tor
murder. The evidence showed that the defend-
ant stood with a revolver when the other man
approached, and fired it, and when he fired it
the man fell dead. On cross-examination of a
witness who saw it the counsel said to him :
1 Did you see this defendant ? ' l Yes.' ' Where
was he?' 'Well, he stood so-and-so.' 'Did
he have a revolver in his hand ? ' ' Yes.' ■ Was
it pointed at the deceased?' 'Yes.' 'How
far from him was it?' ' Twelve feet.' 'Did
he fire it?' 'Yes.' 'Did the deceased drop
when he fired it?' ' Yes.' ' Did you go to
him?' 'Yes.' 'Was he dead?' 'Yes.'
'Now, sir, I ask you to inform the jury on your
oath whether you saw any bullet go out of the
barrel of that revolver ? ' "

Amid the laughter which went round no
answering word came from Pettigrew.

* * * >: *

Senator Butler had a bill appropriating 55,000

to build a monument on the Moore's Creek bat-
tle-field, N. C, which was an especial obi
Senator Wolcott's fun.

" Can the Senator tell me the date of the bat-
tle ? " he asked Mr. Butler.



204 liatt and 1b inner

" It was the first battle of the Revolution —
twenty-nine days before the battle of Lexing-
ton," was the reply.

" But cannot the Senator tell me the day and
the year?" persisted Mr. Wolcott.

Mr. Butler was stumped. "I can tell the
Senator to-morrow," he finally remarked.

"Then," replied Mr. Wolcott, "I will let
my objection stand until to-morrow, also."

A few r minutes later Senator Wolcott relented,
and Mr. Butler made another effort to get the
appropriation agreed to. This time it was Sen-
ator Lodge who objected.

"Oh, don't object, Lodge," said Wolcott, in
a stage whisper, " he'll put the date of the battle
forward a year if you are jealous on account of
Lexington."

But Mr. Lodge continued to object, and the
monument bill remains on the calendar.

Even in the United States Senate they occa-
sionally enliven the tedium of legislative pro-
ceedings with a little honest hilarity. A few
years ago in that body a bill for promoting the
efficiency of navy Chaplains was taken up.

Senator Plumb, of Kansas, wanted to know if
it would suit to equalize the pay by reducing that
of army Chaplains to the navy standard.



of Bmerican Statesmen

Senator Vance, of North Carolina, said ■ "It
would not suit me so well as it would probably
suit the Senator from Kansas. I haw not the
same desire for economy of this charai ter. 1 do
not want to see the praying force of this country
reduced. I think it ought to be increased."



An ex-Senator, whose "inflation" sentiments
were not entirely confined to the current j
some time since invited to speak on the subject
of education at a well known college in North
Carolina. He did speak for three hours with-
out fatigue (to himself) and devoted the major
part of his eloquence to the propriety of d
tinuing Latin grammar in the schools, and
called attention to the fact that he had never
studied any grammar but the English. At the
conclusion he was escorted to dinner by a very
plain-spoken, common sense friend of
and the college.

"What do you think of my views as to ex-
cluding Latin grammar from the sch<
asked the orator.

" You had no need to tell your audience that
you had never studied Latin grammar," was the
reply.

"Why not? "



206 van ano ftumor

"Because they knew that if you had, you
would have spoken thirty minutes instead of
three hours."



A worthy, unpretending specimen of the genus
nouveau riche once gave a dinner party to Jesse
Bledsoe, the brilliant Senator from Kentucky,
and asked a number of prominent men. In the
course of it the man who sat next to Mr. Bled-
soe, winked significantly at him, as he helped
himself liberally a second time to some dainty,
and said :

"Fools make feasts, and wise men eat them,
you know, Senator."

"Yes. And have you never heard that ' wise
men make speeches and fools repeat them '? "
replied the latter, quick as thought, disgusted
with his neighbor's want of regard for the sacred-
ness of the salt.

^ •%. •%. ^ $: %.

Among the quaint characters who have ap-
peared from time to time in the Senate of the
United States may be mentioned Nesmith, of
Oregon. Some two years after he had taken
his seat he was recounting to Senator Wade his
wonder upon first seeing the Capitol and espe-
cially the still greater wonder that he should have



ot Bmcrtcan Statesmen U7

been honored by being elected a member of so
august a body.

" Well," said Senator Wade, " you have
here a couple of years ; what du you think of it
now ? ' '

''Think," replied Nesmith ; "why the won-
der to me now is how you and so many other
fellows ever managed to get here."



When Senator Reagan was in Congress from
Texas he was regarded as a "hoodoo." He

had a habit of wandering aimlessly around the
floors of the Senate Chamber and then sitting
down without thinking in some one else's chair.
The curious part of it was that whenever he sat
down in a fellow Senator's Beat bad luck in-
variably followed. When ex-Senator Kustis
from Louisiana was a candidate for rede, tioo
Reagan was constantly in his < hair and he
defeated. Then he sat one day in Salisl
seat and the next week Salisbury was del
Finally the members began talking about il
Reagan was looked upon as a Jonah.
1889 Senator Harris of Ten:.
hard fight for reelection. The day he s'
home to look after his fences he called the I
Senator aside and said :



208 Wit anD Ibumor

1 ' See here, old man ; while I am not super-
stitious in the least, still you'll do me a favor if
you will keep out of my chair when I am away. ' '

Reagan consented and Harris was reelected.
Not long after that Reagan sat down in Ran-
som's place and the following day the North
Carolina Senator received a telegram command-
ing him to come home on the very next train ;
that serious opposition had suddenly sprung up
against him and his presence was demanded at
once. Reagan had been in the habit of sitting
in his (Ransom's) seat, so he called him aside
and told him about it, plainly intimating that
the fact that he had been using his chair
caused the dissension. Reagan got mad and said
something about people being "darned fools."
Ransom went home and when Reagan went into
the Senate Chamber the next morning he found
that Ransom's chair had been moved away.



Senator W , of , built a fine resi-
dence in Washington. While the workmen under
the Senator's direction, were filling up alow place
in the grounds near the house, the Senator was
asked by an acquaintance who was looking on,
"Where will you get dirt enough to fill that
hole with?"



of Hmcrtcan Statesmen

To which the Senator replied, "When .
out of dirt I will throw in some of the
and fill up with them."

One of the "diggers," whose memory no
doubt went back to last election day, promptly
responded with, "Yis, an' jist afore next elec-
shun time you'll be 'round diggm' u
agin.'"



"I remember so well once when Joe Black-
burn and I were on the same committee,

Senator? . " It was during a Democratic

administration and there had been a good deal
of bother trying to get the Secretary of Agricul-
ture to agree to a certain thing, and Blackburn
had been sent to talk him over to the comm
plan. In fact, the whole Cabinet had been dif-
ficult to deal with. When Joe came back sev-
eral of us were assembled in the committer :
among us Senator Vest, who was sunk dejectedly
into the depths of an armchair. Some one
asked :

" ' Well, Joe, did you succeed ? '

" * Succeed? ' lie echoed. Then he
tramp up and down fuming and fuss Finally

he broke out :

" « Of all the obstinate things in the shape of



210 lUit ano Ibumot

a Cabinet officer I ever encountered, commend

me to J. Sterling Morton ! Don't you agree

with me, Vest ? '

" Vest roused up slowly and answered :

" • I'm sorry, Joe, but I am committed to Hoke

Smith.' "



That clever and brilliant genius, McDougall,
who represented California in the United States
Senate, was like many others of his class some-
what addicted to fiery stimulants, and unable to
battle long with them without showing the effect
of the struggle. Even in his most exhausted
condition he was, however, brilliant at repartee ;
but one night, at a supper of journalists given to
the late George D. Prentice, a genius of the same
mould and the same unfortunate habit, he found
a foeman worthy of his steel in General John
Cochrane. McDougall had taken offense at
some anti-slavery sentiments which had been
uttered — it was in war times — and late in the
evening got on his legs for the tenth time to
make a reply. The spirit did not move him to
utterance, however ; on the contrary, it quite
-deprived him of the power of speech ; and after
an ineffectual attempt at a speech he suddenly
concluded :



ot Bmertcan Statesmen 211

" Those are my sentiments, sir, and my name's
McDougall."

" I beg the gentleman's pardon," said General
Cochrane, springing to his feet ; " but what was
that last remark ? ' '

McDougall pronounced it again ; " my name's
McDougall."

" There must be some error," said Cochrane,
gravely. "I have known Mr. McDougall many
years, and there never was a time when as late
as twelve o'clock at night he knew what his
name was."

******

The fact that Col. Henry Wilson, United
States Senator, from Massachusetts, was willing
to accept the nomination of the Republican
party for the Vice-Presidency brought out the
following anecdote :

When the Colonel was in Boston, raising a
regiment, a little fellow one day presented him-
self at headquarters and asked foraeommi

" Have you seen service ? " asked Colonel W.

" Yes, Colonel, I was in the three months'
service."

" Were you at the battle of Bull Run ? "

"I was, Colonel."

Colonel Wilson has a delicate vein of humor


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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 9 of 10)