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LINCOLN ROOM

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS
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MEMORIAL

the Class of 1901

founded by

HARLAN HOYT HORNER

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HENRIETTA CALHOUN HORNER



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LIVES OF THE PRESIDENTS



UNITED STATES OF AMERICA^

FROM WASHINGTON TO THE PRESENT TIME.

CONTAINING

A NARRATIVE OF THE MOST INTERESTING EVENTS IN THE

CAREER OF EACH , PRESIDENT ; THUS CONSTITUTING

A GRAPHIC HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES.

BY

JOHN S. C. ABBOTT,

ACTHOK OF THE " MOTHEK AT IIOME," " LiFE OF NAPOLEON," " HiSTORT OP THE CiVIL WAK IN
AMEKICA," "FKEXCH EEVOLUTION," ETC.

ILLUSTRATED WITH PORTRAITS OF ALL

THE PRESIDENTS ENGRAVED ON STEEL, PICTURES

OF TUEIR PRIVATE RESIDENCES, AND FIFTEEN OTUER WOOD

ENGRAVINGS OF THE MOST INTERESTING SCENES IN THEIR LIVES.



SOLD ONLY BY DISTRIBUTING AGENTS.



BOSTON:
PUBLISHED BY B. B. RUSSELL & CO.

SAN FRANCISCO: H. H. BANCROFT & CO.

1867.



Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1866, by

B. B. RUSSELL & CO.,

In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.



Stereotyped and printed by Geo. C. Rand & Avery, 3 Cornhill, Boston.






PREFACE.



There are few persons who can read this record of the
Lives of the Presidents of the United States without the
conviction, that there is no other nation which can present
a consecutive series of seventeen rulers of equal excellence
of character and administrative ability. Probably the least
worthy of all our presidents would rank among the best
of the kings whom the accident of birth has placed upon
hereditary thrones ; and not an individual has popular suf-
rage elevated to the presidential chair, whom one would
think of ranking with those many royal monsters who have
in turn disgraced all the courts of Europe. This record
settles the question, that popular suffrage, in the choice of
rulers, is a far safer reliance than hereditary descent.

With us, the freedom of the press is so unlimited, and
23olitical partisanship so intense, that few persons have been
able to take really an impartial view of the characters of
those who have been by one party so inordinately lauded,
and by the other so intemperately assailed. But, as we
now dispassionately review the past, most readers will
probably find many old prejudices dispelled.

In writing these sketches, the author has endeavored to
be thoroughly impartial, and to place himself in the posi-
tion which the subject of the sketch occupied, so as to look
from his stand-point upon the great questions which he
was called to consider. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson
were in political antagonism ; but no man can read a true
record of their lives, and not be convinced that both were
inspired with the noblest zeal to promote the best inter-
ests of their country and of the human race.

The writer has not thought that impartiality requires that
he should refrain from a frank expression of his own views.



4 PREFACE.

It is an essential part of biography, that faults as well as
virtues should be honestly detailed. No man is perfect.
There have certainly been errors and wrong-doings in the
past administration of this Government. It is not the
duty of the impartial historical biographer to ignore such,
or to gloss them over. They should be distinctly brought
to lig-ht as instruction for the future.

o

The materials from which the writer has drawn these
biographical sketches are very abundant. Whatever of
merit they possess must consist mainly in the skill which
may be exhibited in selecting from the great mass those
incidents which will give one the most vivid conception
of the individual. The writer has attempted, with much
labor, to present a miniature likeness of each character
which shall be faithful and striking. If he has failed, he
can onl}' say that he has honestly done his best. He has
not deemed it expedient to encumber these pages with foot-
notes, as most of the important facts here stated, it is be-
lieved, are unquestioned ; and all will be found substan-
tiated in the memoirs and works, more or less voluminous,
of our Chief Magistrates, contained in most of our large
libraries.

We have just passed through one of the most terrible
storms which ever desolated a nation. Its suro-ino; billows
have not yet subsided. Every reader will appreciate the
delicacy of the task of writing now, in the midst of all
the excitements which agitate our country, an account of
the characters, which necessarily involves the administra
tions, of Presidents Buchanan, Lincoln, and Johnson ; and yet
the writer feels such a consciousness that he has endeavored
to be just to all, and at the same time to be faithful to the
principles of a true democracy, that he cannot doubt that
the final verdict will sustain his record. Neither can he
doubt that every candid reader must admit that there is no
government upon this globe better adapted to promote the
great interests of humanity than our own. With these
few words, the author submits to the public these results
of many months of incessant yet delightful labor.

JOHN S. C. ABBOTT.
New Havex, Coxx., November, 1866.



CONTENTS.



CHAPTER I,

GEORGE WASHINGTON.

PAO*

Ancestry of Washington. — His Birth and Childhood. — Anecdotes. — The Yonttful
Engineer. — The Fairfax Family. — Life in the Wilderness. — War with the In-
dians. — Domestic Griefs. — The French War. — Washington's Heroism at Brad-
dock's Defeat. — Scenes of Woe. — Marriage. — Inheritance of Mount Vernon. —
Domestic Habits. — American Revolution. — Patriotism of Washington. — Ap-
pointed Commander-in-chief. — Expulsion of the British from Boston. — Battles of
the Revolution. — Perplexities and Sufferings. — Spirit of Self-sacrifice. — Alliance
with France. — Capture of Cornwallis. — Attacks upon the Character of Washing-
ton. — The Tomahawk and Scalping-knife. — Close of the War. — Washington
chosen President. — His Retirement. — Peaceful Life at Mount Vernon. — Sickness
and Death



CHAPTER n.

JOHNADAMS.

Ancestry of John Adams. — Anecdote of his Boyhood. — State of the Country. — Mar-
riage.— British Assumptions. — Riot in Boston. — Adams's Defence of the Soldiers.
— Anecdote. — Patriotism of Adams. — The Continental Congress. — His Influence
in Congress. — Energy of Mrs. Adams. — The Appointment of Washington. — The
Declaration of Independence. — Letter from Mrs. Adams. — Interview with Lord
Howe. — Journey to Baltimore. — Delegate to France. — The Voj-age. — Adams
and Franklin. — The Contrast. — Franklin and Voltaire. — Second Trip to Paris. —
Successful Mission to Holland. — Conflict with the French Court. — Mission to Eng-
land. — Presidential Career. — Last Days, and Death 57

CHAPTER III.

THOMAS JEFFERSON.

Birth and Childhood. — College-life. — A Law-student. — Earnest Scholarship. — Mar-
riage. — Estate at Jlonticello. — Interest in Public Affairs. — Action in the Conti-
nental Congress. — Governor of Virginia. — Death of his Wife. — His Grief. — Let-
ters to' his Children. — Minister to France. — His Popularity. — Political Views.—
Scientific Accuracy. — Interest in the French Revolution. — Returns to America.—
The two Parties, Federal and Democratic. — Secretary of State. — Monarchical
Sentiments. — Letters. — Correspondence with John Adams. — Alexander Hamil-
ton. — Weary of Office. — Vice-President. — President. — Inaugural. — Stormy
Administration. — Life in Retirement. — Scenes at Monticello. — Death ... 97

5



O CONTENTS.

CHAPTER IV.

JAJIES MADISON.

PAGE.

Childhood. — College-life. — Studious Habits. — Enters Public Life. — Mental Charac-
teristics. — Aid in framing the Constitution. — In Congress. — Marriage. — Mrs.
Madison. — Alien and Sedition Laws. — Secretary of State. — The White House.

— Life in Washington. — Friendship with Jefferson. — Abrogation of Titles. — An-
ecdote. — Chosen President. — Right of Search. — War with England. — Re-elected.

— Treaty of Ghent. — Arrival of the News. — Retirement to Montpelier. — Old
Age, and Death 148

CHAPTER V.

JAMES JI O N R O E.

Parentage and Birth. — Education. — Enters the Army. — A Legislator. — A Senator. —
Political Views. — Mission to France. — Bonaparte. — Purchase of Louisiana. — Un-
friendliness of England. — Prospective Greatness of America. — Washington's Views
of the French Revolution. — Col. Jlonroe, Governor. — Secretary both of War and of
State. — Elected to the Presidency. — Northern Tour. — Purchase of Spain. — Sym-
pathy with Revolutionary Soldiers. — The Monroe Doctrine. — Retirement and
Death 169

CHAPTER VI.

JOHN QUINCY ADAMS.

Birth and Childhood. — Education in Europe. — Private Secretary. — Enters Harvard
College. — Studies Law. — Minister to the Netherlands. — Commendation of Wash-
ington. — Other Missions. — Return to America. — Elected to the Massachusetts
Senate. — To the National House of Representatives. — Alienation of the Federal-
ists. — Professor of Rhetoric. — Mission to Russia. — Anecdote of Alexander.

Treaty of Ghent. — Secretary of State. — President. — Unscrupulous Opposition.

Retirement. —Returned to the House of Representatives. — Signal Services. — Pub-
lic Appreciation. — Death 185

CHAPTER VIL

ANDREW JACKSON.

Birth and Education. — A Bad Boy. — Keeps School. — Studies Law. — Emigrates. —
Frontier Life. — Low Tastes. — A Representative. — Senator. — Judge. — Shop-
keeper. — Major- General. — Quarrels and Duels. — Marriage and its Romance. —
Fight with the Bentons. — War with the Indians. — Defence of New Orleans. —
Passion and Violence. — President of the United States. — Administration. — Retire
ment. — Conversion. — Religious Character. — Death _07

CHAPTER Vm.

MARTIN VAN BUREN.

Birth and Childhood. — Studies Law. — Talents and Industry. — Political Principles. —
Success as a La-n^'er and Politician. — Aids in the Election of Jackson. — Secretary
of State. — Mrs. Eaton. — Resigns his Secretaryship. — Minister to England. — Re-
jected by the Senate. — Attains the Vice-Presidency. — Patronage of Gen. Jack-
son. — Chosen President. — Retirement and Declining Years 241



CONTENTS.



CHAPTER IX.

WILLIAM IIENKY HAKEISON.

PAGK.

Birth and Ancestry. — Enters United-States Ann v. — Is promoted. — Resigns his Com-
mission. — Sent to Congress. — Gt)vernor of Indiana Territory. — His Scrupulous
Integrity. — Indian Troubles. — Battle of Tippecanoe. — War with Great Britain. —
Gov. Harrison's Perplexities and Labors. — The British repulsed. — Tecumseh
slain. — False Accusations. — Speech in Congress. — Reply to Randolph. — Letter to
President Bolivar. — Temperance Principles. — Views respecting Slavery. — Duel-
ling. — Elected President. — Death 253

CHAPTER X.

JOHN TYLER.

His Parentage. — Education and Scholarship. — Early Distinction. — Success at the Bar
and in Political Life. — Democratic Principles. — Course in the Senate. — Elected
Vice-President. — Accession to the Presidency. — False Position, and Embarrass-
ments. — Retirement from Office. — Joins in the Rebellion. — Death .... 274

CHAPTER XI.

JAMES KNOX POLK.

Ancestry of Mr. Polk. — His Early Distinction. — His Success as a Lawyer. — Political
Life. — Long Service in Congress. — Speaker in the House. — Governor of Ten-
nessee. — Anecdote. — Political Views. — Texas Annexation. — Candidate for the
Presidency. — Mexican War. — Its Object and Results. — Retirement. — Sickness.

— Death 284

CHAPTER XH.

ZACHARY TAYLOR.

Birth. — Emigration to Kentucky. — Neglected Education. — Enters the Army. — Life
on the Frontier. — ■ Battles with the Indians. — Campaign in Florida. — The Mexican
War. — Palo Alto. — Resaca de la Palma. — Monterey. — Buena Vista. — Nomi-
nated for the Presidency. — Sufferings. — Death 299

CHAPTER XIII.

MILLARD FILLMORE.

His Lowly Birth. — Struggles with Advei-sity. — Limited Education. — Eagerness for In-
tellectual Improvement. — A Clothier. — A Law-student. — Commencement of Prac-
tice. — Rapid Rise. — Political Life. — In Congi-ess. — Vice-President. — Presi-
dent. — His Administration. — Retirement. — The Civil War 324

CHAPTER XIV.

FRANKLIN PIERCE.

'Character of his Father. — His Promise in Boyhood. — College-life. — Political Views.

— Success as a Lawyer. — Entrance upon Public Life. — Service in the Mexican
War. — Landing in Mexico. — March through the Country. — Incidents of the March.

— Anecdotes. — Nomination for the Presidency. — Election. — Administration. —
Retirement 332



8 CONTENTS.

CHAPTER XV.

JAMES BUCHANAN.

PAGE,

His Childhood's Home. — Devotion to Study. — Scholarship, and Purity of Character. —
Congressional Career. — Political Views. — Secretary of State. — Minister to the
Court of St. James. — Ostend Manifesto. — Elected to the Presidency. — The New-
Haven Correspondence. — Disasters of his Administration. — Retirement . . . 352

CHAPTER XVI.

ABRAHAM L I >• C O L N.

Life in a Log-cabin. — Excellence of Character early developed. — A Day-laborer. — A
Boatman. — A Shopkeeper. — A Strident. — A Legislator. — A Lawyer. — A Mem-
ber of Congress. — A Political Speaker. — The Debate with Douglas. — Eloquence
of Mr. Lincoln. — Nominated for the Presidency. — Habits of Temperance. — His
Sentiments. — Anecdotes. — Acts of his Administration. — His Assassination . . 375

CHAPTER XVn.

ANDREW JOHNSON.

His LdwIv Origin. — Struggles for Education. — Early Distinction. — Alderman, Mayor,
State Representative, State Senator. — Speeches. — Member of Congress. — Gov-
ernor. — Anecdote. — United-States Senator. — Opposition to Secession. — Speeches.
— Gradual Change of Views. — Military Governor of Tennessee. — Address to the
Colored People. — Vigorous Administration. — Vice-President. — Speeches. — Presi-
dent. — Political Views. — Agreement with the Republican Party. — Conflict with
Congress. — His Policy. — Articles of Amendment. — Peter Cooper. — Future Pros-
pects 436



STEEL-PLATE ILLUSTRATIONS.

I. Group plate of four Presidents, containing likenesses of George Washington, Abra-
ham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson, and Andrew Johnson. Frontispiece.
n. The British Fleet leaving Boston Harbor 32

III. Group plate of six Presidents; viz., John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madi-

son, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, and Martin Van Buren . . .97

IV. Battle of New Orleans 233

V. Battle of Buena Vista 319

VI. Group plate of seven Presidents; viz., William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, James
K. Polk, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, and James Bu-
chanan 253

VII. Abraham Lincoln entering Richmond 430



LIVES OF THE PRESIDENTS.



CHAPTER I.

GEORGE WASHINGTON. ^

Ancestry of Washington. — His Birth and Childhood. — Anecdotes. — The Youthful En-
gineer. — The Fairfax Family. — Life in the Wilderness. — War with the Indian^. —
Domestic Griefs. — The French War. — Washington's Heroism at Braddock's Defeat. —
Scenes of Woe. — Marriage. — Inheritance of Mount Vernon. — Domestic Habits. —
American Revolution. — Patriotism of Washington. — Appointed Commander-in-chief

— Expulsion of the British from Boston. — Battles of the Revolution. — Perplexities and
Sufferings. — Spirit of Self-sacrifice. — Alliance with France. — Capture of Cornwallis.

— Attacks upon the Character of Washington. — The Tomahawk and Scalping-knife. —
Close of the War. — Washington chosen President. — His Retirement. — Peaceful Life
at Mount Vernon. — Sickness and Death.

Two centuries ago, Virginia was almost an unexplored wilder-
ness ; but, even then, the beautiful realm had obtained much
renown from the sketches of chance tourists. The climate, the
soil, the rivers, bays, mountains, valleys, all combined to render it
one of the most attractive spots upon our globe. Two young-
brothers, of wealth, intelligence, and high moral principle, — Law-
rence and John Washington, — were lured by these attractions to
abandon their home in England's crowded isle, and seek their
fortunes in this new world. They were both gentlemen. Law-
rence was a fine scholar, a graduate of Oxford : John was an
accomplished man of business.

After a dreary voyage of four months, they entered that mag-
nificent inland sea, Chesapeake Bay, and from that ascended the
beautiful Potomac. It was a scene as of Fairyland, which was
spread around them that bright summer morning, when their
vessel, propelled by a favoring breeze, glided over the mirrored



10 LIVES OF THE PRESIDENTS.

waters of that river which the name of "Washington was subse-
quently to render so renowned. The unbroken forest in all its
primeval grandeur swept sublimely over hill and valley. The
birch canoes of the Indian, paddled by warriors in their pictu-
resque attire of paint and feathers, glided buoyant as bubbles
over the waves. Distance lent enchantment to the view of wig-
wam villages in sunny coves, with boys and girls frolicking on
the beach and in the water.

The two brothers had purchased a large tract of land about
fifty miles above the mouth of the river, and on its western
banks. John built him a house, and married Miss Anne Pope.
Years rolled on, of joys and griefs, of smiles and tears, of births
and deaths ; and the little drama, so trivial, so sublime, of that
family life, disappeared, ingulfed in the fathomless sea of the
ages. Augustine, the second son of John, who, like his father,
was an energetic, wise, good man, remained in the paternal
homestead, cultivating its broad acres. Life, if prolonged, is a
tragedy always. Augustine's wife, Jane Butler, as lovely in
character as she was beautiful in person, died, leaving in the
house, darkened with grief, three little motherless children. The
disconsolate father, in the course of years, found another mother
for his bereaved household.

He was singularly fortunate in his choice. Mary Ball was
every thing that husband or child could desire. She was beauti-
ful in person, intelligent, accomplished, energetic and prudent,
and a warm-hearted Christian. Augustine and Mary were mar-
ried on the 6th of March, 1730. On the 22d of February, 1732,
they received into their arms their first-born child. Little did
they dream, as they bore their babe to the baptismal font and
called him George WasJiing-ton, that that name was to become
one of the most memorable in the annals of time. Explain it as
we may, there is seldom a great and a good man to be found M^ho
has not had a good mother.

In this respect, George Washington Avas very highly blessed.
Both of his parents were patterns for a child to follow. The
birthplace of George, though very secluded, was one of the most
picturesque spots on the banks of the Potomac. His parents
were wealthy for those times, and his home was blessed with all
substantial comforts. A beautiful lawn, smooth and green, spread
in gentle descent from the door-stone of their one-story cottage



GEORGE WASHINGTON. 11

to the pebbly shore of the river, which here spread out into a
magnificent breadth of nearly ten miles. On the eastern bank,
there extended, as far as the eye could reach, the forest-covered
hills and vales of Maryland. A few islands contributed their
charm to this view of surpassing loveliness. The smoke of
Indian fires curled up from the forest, the flash from the paddle
of the Indian canoe glanced over the waves, and occasion-
ally the sails of the white man's ship were seen ascending the
stream.

From earliest childhood, George developed a very noble char-
acter. He had a vigorous constitution, a fine form, and great
bodily strength. In childhood, he was noted for frankness, fear-
lessness, and moral courage ; and yet he was as far removed as
possible from manifesting a quarrelsome spirit, or from displaying
any of the airs of the bravado. He never tyrannized over others;
and none in his peaceful, rural, virtuous home were found to
attempt to tyrannize over him. We must not omit the story,
though the world has it by heart, of his cutting the cherry-tree.
His reply to his indignant father, whose impetuous nature was
roused by the outrage, " Father, I cannot tell a lie, I cut the
tree," was but the development in boyhood of the character of
his manhood. The father was worthy of the child. " Come to
my heart," said he, as he embraced him with flooded eyes :
" I had rather lose a thousand trees than find falsehood in my
son."

Man is born to mourn. After twelve happy years of union with
Mary Ball, when George was but ten years of age, Augustine
Washington died, leaving George and five other children father-
less. The grief-stricken mother was equal to the task thus im-
posed upon her. The confidence of her husband in her judgment
and maternal love is indicated by the fact, that he left the income
of the entire property to her until her children should respec-
tively come of age. Nobly she discharged the task thus imposed
upon her. A nation's homage gathers around the memory of the
mother of Washington. George never ceased to revere his
mother. He attributed to the principles of probity and religion
which she instilled into his mind much of his success during the
eventful career through which Providence led him.

In the final division of the estate, the oldest son, Lawrence, the



12 LIVES OF THE PRESIDENTS.

child of Jane Butler, inherited Mount Vernon, including twenty-
five hundred acres of land. George received the paternal mansion.
which was some distance farther down the river, with the broad
acres surrounding it. The other children were also amply pro-
vided for. Lady "Washington, before her marriage, was regarded
as one of the most beautiful girls irr Virginia. Her figure was
commanding, her features lovely, and her demeanor dignified and
courtly. Life's severe discipline developed a character simple,
sincere, grave, cheered with earnest and unostentatious piety.
Her well-balanced mind gave her great influence over her noble
son, which she retained until the hour of her death.

Mrs. Alexander Hamilton tells the story, that, when George
Washington was in the meridian of his fame, a very brilliant
party was given in his honor at Fredericksburg, Va. When the
church-bell rang the hour of nine. Lady Washington rose, and said,
'Come, George, it is nine o'clock: it is time for us to go home."
George, like a dutiful son, offered to his mother his arm, and they
retired. We must not, however, fail to record that Mrs, Hamil-
ton admits, that, after George had seen his mother safely home, he
returned to the party.

There was then, as now, in Virginia, great fondness for splendid
horses. Lady Washington had a span of iron-grays, very spirited,
and very beautiful. With much pride she sat at her window, and
gazed upon the noble creatures feeding upon the lawn, and often
gambolling like children at play. One of these fiery colts, though
accustomed to the harness with his companion in the carriage,
had never been broken to the saddle. Some young men, one day,
companions of George, in a frolic endeavored to mount the fiery
steed. It could not be done. George, who was then about thir-
teen years of age, approached, soothed the animal by caresses,
and, watching his opportunity, leaped upon his back. The horse,
half terrified, half indignant, plunged and reared, in the vain
attempt to free himself of his rider, and then, with the speed of
the winds, dashed over the fields. George, exultant, sat his horse
like a centaur, gave him free rein, and, when he flagged, urged
him on.

Fearless, ardent, imprudent, he forgot the nervous energy of
the noble steed, and was not aware of the injury he was doing
until the horse broke a blood-vessel, and dropped beneath him.



GEORGE WASHINGTON. 13

Covered with foam, and gasping for breath, the poor creature



Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottLives of the Presidents of the United States of America from Washington to the present time .. → online text (page 1 of 46)