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L. E. (Lucius Eugene) Chittenden.

Personal reminiscences, 1840-1890 : including some not hitherto published of Lincoln and the war online

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Personal Reminiscences



1840-1890

INCLUDING SOME NOT HITHERTO PUBLISHED OF
LINCOLN AND THE WAR



BY

L. E. CHITTE:r^DE]Sr

AUTHOR OF "RECOLLECTIONS OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN ANB HIS
ADMINISTRATION. "



NEW YORK
KICHMOND, CEOSCUP & CO.

1893



COPTRIGHT, 1893, BY

RICHMOND, CROSCUP & CO.



[All Rights Reserved.]



To
EDWARD J. PHELPS,

LAWYER, STATESMAN, AND FELLOW-VERMONTER,

AS A

MEMORIAL OF A FRIENDSHIP

WHICH BEGAN WHEN WE CAME TO THE BAR,

WHICH HAS SURVIVED A BUSINESS COPARTNERSHIP

AND MANY "TRIALS,"

WHICH GROWS CLOSER WITH THE PASSING YEARS, AND

PROMISES TO BE INHERITED BY OUR CHILDREN,

IF Dedicate tbis Dolume.

THE AUTHOR.



PREFACE.



If the opinion of a large body of correspondents is
reliable, the reading-public have derived some pleas-
ure from my " Recollections of President Lincoln and
his Administration." The chief attraction of that
book must lie in its great central figure. If, as these
correspondents claim, it has other merits, I think
they are comprised in the fact that the subjects are
personal, and each is treated separately in a chapter
of no great length. It was also my purpose to describe
persons and events without exaggeration or prejudice,
just as they appeared to me at the time.

The present volume is written in the same spirit
and on the same plan. While it lacks the great cen-
tral attraction of the " Recollections," I sincerely hope
that each subject will be found to possess an interest
or to point a moral which will justify its publication.

I have an impression that truth is just as attrac-
tive in a book as it is in the ordinary transactions of
life. If there is any false statement of fact herein,
it has escaped my notice and has been unintentionally
made. No chronological or other order of subjects
has been attempted. Observations upon birds follow



yi PEEFACE.

remarks upon the financial policy of Secretary Chase
without any infringement of my design. Each
chapter except the " Study" is substantially complete
in itself, and must stand or fall upon its own merits.
I offer no excuses, I do not attempt to forestall criti-
cism. If any chapter is unworthy of a place in the
literature of the time, I have simply made an error
of judgment and must bear the penalty.

I shall feel greatly disappointed if there is a sen-
tence in it which shall pain any reader or lead him
to wish that the volume had not been written. It is
more local than I could wish, but that is perhaps un-
avoidable.

The " Study" which closes the book is not within
its original scope. It is an attempt to show what
the qualities were which made Mr. Lincoln great —
which as a political leader, an orator, a writer of Eng-
lish prose, a statesman, a military strategist, a friend
and benefactor of humanity, so elevated and made
him the foremost man of his time. If I have suc-
ceeded only partially, I have shown to my young
countrymen how they may emulate his noble pur-
poses and perpetuate his fame, that —

" While the races of mankind endure,
So shall his great example stand
Colossal, glorious, seen iu every land
To keep the soldier firm, the statesman pure. "

L. E. Chittenden.
New York, Feb. 1, 1893.



CO^TEl^TS.



33



CHAPTER PAGE

I. — The Earliest Free Soil Organization— The

Origin op the Republican Party, ... 1
II.— The Van Burens— The New York Barn-
Burners,

III.— The Early Bench and Bar of Vermont,
IV.-tA Lesson in Banking, ....
v.— The Third House Journal— How We Re-
formed Legislation in 1850, .
VI.— Wooden Side Judges of the County Courts, 43
VII.— The Vermont Flood wood or Right Arm of

HER Defence, *. . 47

VIII.— A Grateful Client, 53

IX.— Hypnotism— Spiritual and Other Isms, . . 70
X.— "The Beautiful American Nun," . . .79
XL— Secretary Chase and his Financial Policy, . 90^
XII.— Some Notes about Birds— A Lesson in Engi-
neering, 101

XIII.— Judge Lynch— An Incident of Early Pacific

Railroad Travel, 114

XIV.— Judge Lynch, Continued— An Experience in

A Western Mining -Camp, . . . .126
XV.— Adirondack Days— Untried Companions in the

Wilderness— Their Perils and Experiences, 189
XVI.— The Story OF Mitchell Sabattis, . . .151
XVII.— The Adirondack Region— A Warning to the

Destroyer— A Plea for the Perishing, . 159
vii



Vlll CONTENTS.

CHAPTER PAGE

XVIII.— November Days on Lake Champlain — The

Story of Hiram Bramble, . . . .169
XIX.— Duck -Shooting in East Creek, . . .175
XX.— A Cold Morning on Bullwagga Bay, . . 182

XXI.— Quacks and Quackery, 186

XXII.— Essex Junction, 198

XXIII.— The Humor and Mischief of the Junior Bar

—Our Annual Bar Festival, . . .205
XXIV.— Owls, Falcons, and Eagles, . . .221

XXV.— Novel Experiences in Official Life, . . 228

XXVI.— The Death of Lincoln, 236

XXVII.— Savannah in Winter and in War, . . 246
XXVIII. — Teaching School on Hog Island — Its Ad-
vantages AND Pleasant Memories, . . 269
XXIX.— The Book Chase— Non- Existence of Unique
Copies — A Hunt for "Sanders' Indian
Wars" and "The Contrast," the First
American Play— Stolen Engravings and

Drawings, 279

XXX.— Some Men whom I knew in Washington

DURING THE CiVIL WaR, . . . .303

XXXI.— Law as a Progressive Science — Is Pro-
gress Always AN Advance?— Circumstan-
tial Evidence— The Boorn Case, . . 328
XXXII. —Abraham Lincoln : A Study— His Origin

AND Early Life, 340

XXXIII.— Abraham Lincoln (Continued) : His Fail-
ures—The Farm Laborer ; the Flat- Boat-
man ; the Fighter ; the Merchant ; the
Surveyor, 349

XXXIV.— Abraham Lincoln (Continued) : His Suc-
cesses — The Lawyer ; the Advocate ; the
Popular Man, 356

XXXV.— Abraham Lincoln (Continued) : The Ora-
tor ; the Candidate ; the Man of the
People, 367



/



CONTENTS. ix

CHAPTER PAGE

XXXVI. —Abraham Lincoln (Continued) : His Elec-
tion ; HIS Preparation and his Promises, 379

XXXVII.— Abraham Lincoln (Continued) : The Diplo-
matist ; the Military Strategist ; the
Master of English Prose ; the Statesman ;
the Great President, .... 394

XXXVIII. —Abraham Lincoln (Continued) : The Man

FULL of Faith and Power, . . .409



PERSONAL REMINISCENCES.



CHAPTER I.

The Earliest Free Soil Organization— The
Origin of the Republican Party.

It is April, 1848. The Mexican War is ended.
Shall the territory which we made the war to acquire
— vast enough in itself for a republic — remain free,
or shall it be surrendered to the domination of the
slave power? This had been the burning question.
We had hoped it was settled by the Wilmot Proviso,
which declared that neither slavery nor involuntary
servitude, except for crime, should ever exist there.
We were now to learn that, touching the peculiar in-
stitution, nothing was to be regarded as settled, un-
less it was settled in the Southern way. The slave
power had secured control of the Democratic party.
In the name of that party it had hinted at a pro-
gramme which involved the abrogation of the Wil-
mot Proviso, and between its lines could be read
faint indications of measures which did not mature
until six years later. Of these, " Squatter Sover-
eignty" was the most obvious. This doctrine de-
clared that the people ought to settle the status of a
State as between freedom and slavery, after it was
admitted into the Federal Union. But "Squatter
1



2 PERSONAL REMINISCENCES.

Sovereignty" involved the repeal of the Missouri
Compromise of 1820, which declared that slaA^ery
should not exist north of latitude 36° 30'; for how-
could the people decide in favor of slavery if it were
already excluded by an irrepealable law? There
were also occasional suggestions from the South of a
stringent law for the capture and return of fugitives
from slavery, and of the principles established after-
ward in the Dred Scott case, as additional planks in
the Democratic platform.

It was not a favorable time for the slave power to
assert new claims, especially in Vermont. While
the Liberty party had never attained great numer-
ical strength there, and its leaders were generally
regarded as dangerous extremists, there were many
good Democrats as well as Whigs who could not but
respect such men as William Lloyd Garrison, James
G. Birney, and Gerritt Smith, however much they
might differ from them as to the means by Avhich
their purposes were to be accomplished. Their dif-
ferences were of degree rather than principle. The
New Englanders generally would have said: "Let
slavery be content with its present possessions — we
will not concern ourselves with it where it has been
established by law. But freedom is the natural right
and normal condition of the human race. Not one
square inch of territory, now free, shall ever be
darkened by the pall of slavery with our consent, nor
without overcoming all the lawful resistance we can
interpose." The Abolitionists, however, insisted that
slavery had no rights and that it ought to be every-
where abolished.

In fact, slavery itself was cordially detested by the
people of the Green Mountains. They inherited their



THE FIRST FREE SOIL PARTY. 3

love of freedom from their ancestors. Like Abraham
Lincoln in his younger days, the thought of slavery
made them uncomfortable. There had been a very
warm spot in their hearts for the hunted fugitive
ever since Revolutionary days, when Capt. Ebenezer
Allen, "conscientious that it is not right in the sight
of God to keep slaves, " gave to Dinah Mattis and her
infant, slaves captured from the enemy, their deed
of emancipation; and Judge Harrington decided
against the title of the slave-master, because he
could not show a deed from the original proprietor —
Almighty God ! From the day when the name of
the State was first adopted, no slave had been taken
away from Vermont against his will. The fugitive
who set foot upon her soil was from that moment
safe if he was not free. Her North and South roads
were underground railroads, and there were few
houses upon them where the escaped slave was not
provided with rest, food, and clothing, and assisted
on his way. There were Democrats who would send
their teams to carry the fugitives northward, while
they themselves walked to a convention to shout
for Douglas, and resolve that slavery must not be
interfered with in the States where it existed by
law.

Just about this time the Democratic party of the
North gave way, and intimated its willingness to
make the concessions which the Southern wing of
the party began openly to demand. Chief among
these was the rejection of the Wilmot Proviso, and ac^
ceptance of the doctrine of "Squatter Sovereignty."
The proximity of Missouri and Arkansas would enable
their temporary emigrants to decide that slavery
should be lawful in Kansas and Nebraska ; and the



4 PERSONAL REMINISCENCES.

obstructions being removed from California and New-
Mexico, any one with half an eye could see that the
Missouri Compromise would be swept away, and
the whole region west of the " Father of the Waters "
would become slave territory.

To such concessions there were many Northern
Democrats who objected, and some who answered
" No ! Never ! " Just then the Democratic State Con-
vention was called to meet at Montpelier, and the
leading Democratic newspaper, published at the
State capital, announced that the convention would
incorporate the new doctrines into the Democratic
platform. The paper spoke as one having authority,
declaring that the Wilmot Proviso was a violation of
the Federal Constitution.

I was one of the recalcitrant Democrats and a dele-
gate from Burlington to that convention. On the
day it met I should complete my twenty-fourth year.
I had been practising at the bar somewhat over three
years and was (in my own opinion) a much greater
constitutional law3^er than I have at any time since
been considered by myself or other competent judges.
I felt perfectly qualified to discuss the constitu-
tional question involved in the Proviso. The more
I examined the authorities the clearer the question
seemed, until I arrived at the condition of mind
where I regarded this new demand as a piece of cool
impudence on the part of the pro-slavery Democracy.

I found that other delegates to the convention
were of the same temper. One of them was Charles
D. Kasson, a lawyer of Burlington and an elder
brother of John A. Kasson, afterward of Iowa. The
elder Kasson was as solid, reliable, and generous a
citizen and friend as ever existed. He was removed



THE FIRST FREE SOIL PARTY. 5

by death onl}^ a few j^ears later, and his loss was felt
not only by the circle of his personal friends, but by
the communit}'.

With Kasson I promptly decided that if the con-
vention committed itself in favor of Squatter Sover-
eignty and against the Wilmot Proviso, we would
leave it and raise the standard of Free Soil. We
corresponded with other delegates and invited them
to join us in the revolt. Many of the younger Dem-
ocrats were, like ourselves, indignant at the new
dictation. But when it came to the question of leav-
ing the party they (nearly) " all with one consent be-
gan to make excuse." We found only four who
where willing to unite in heroic measures. These
were Edward D. Barber, of Middleburj", Charles I.
Walker and Charles K. Field, of Windham, and A.
J. Rowell, of Orleans Count}'. Barber was a great-
hearted man, full of fun and frolic, but with a soul
stirred to its depths by an}^ story of cruelty or op-
pression. He was a born anti-slavery man. Walker
was an able lawyer, who shortly after removed to
Detroit, where he soon became the leader of the bar.
Field was a lawyer of great natural ability, full of a
grim humor and with a tongue as sharp and caustic
as that of John Randolph. Rowell was like Zac-
cheus, little of stature, but great in push and energy.
The qualities of the sixth party to the agreement
were as may hereafter appear.

The six members referred to had a conference in
Montpelier the evening before the convention. We
agreed to go into the convention after we had noti-
fied the State Committee of our purpose to withdraw
if the design of adding the new planks to the plat-
form were persisted in. Possibly because I was the



6 PERSONAL REMINISCENCES.

youngest, to me was assigned the duty of delivering
our valedictory and leading the revolt.

We called upon the State Committee in the morn-
ing and were treated with contempt. At ten o'clock
the convention was called to order. From the tem-
porary and permanent organization and the Commit-
tee on Resolutions we were, as we had anticipated,
excluded. The last-named committee met in a cor-
ner of the hall ; the resolutions which had been pre-
pared by authority were immediately reported to the
.convention. They were anti-Proviso and pro-Squat-
ter Sovereignty in their most objectionable form.

I arose to make my first, my last, and my only
speech in a Democratic convention. I began with
the statement that the resolutions made the Demo-
cratic party of Vermont say that our free republic
had not the power to maintain its own freedom ; that
if it was a violation of the Constitution to preserve
the freedom of the territory acquired from Mexico, it
was an equal violation of that instrument to exclude
slavery" from the northwest territor3\ That I would
not venture to question the conclusions of the great
constitutional lawyers of the Committee on Resolu-
tions, but I would read a section or two from a law
book of some authority which was diametrically op-
posed to the conclusions of the committee. The book
was called Kent's Commentaries, was written b}" a
lawyer of some authority in his day, and I read from
it, not to resist the resolutions, but to show in what
wholesale and ignorant blunders the committee had
detected John Marshall, Story, and James Kent. I
then read an extract from a letter of Mr. Madison to
another member of the convention that framed the
Constitution, thereby showing that the makers of



THE FIRST FREE SOIL PARTY. 7

that instrument did not know what they were about,
for they supposed that the absolute control of the
territories had been vested in Congress. This satire
produced an uneasy feeling in the convention. Throw-
ing it aside, I now, with all the earnestness of which
I was master, exclaimed, " You who assert the power
of leadership are making it impossible for a Ver-
monter who respects himself to remain in the Dem-
ocratic party. Your resolutions prostitute that party
to the service of the slave power. Our ancestors
fought two states and a kingdom, through cold and
poverty and hunger, for almost twenty years, to se-
cure a place where Vermont was the equal of any
State in the Federal Union. Your resolutions are un-
worthy of their descendants. Pass them, and with
my associates I leave this hall for the time being
and the Democratic party forever, unless it is re-
deemed from its present vassalage and restored to
its former principles and dignity."

When I took my seat there was for some moments
an oppressive silence, followed at last by what ap-
peared to be a burst of genuine applause.

But an ancient Democrat, whose mind was imper-
vious to argument, then arose and observed that as
" the boy had spoke his piece, we might as well pro-
ceed to the business of the convention." No one else
spoke. There was a subdued affirmative vote and a
sharp "No" from the six to the resolutions. We
did not challenge the vote, the chairman declared the
resolutions carried, and the opposition party of six
walked out of the convention. There was an effort
to raise a hiss. It failed, and we took our departure
in a profound and unbroken silence.

We crossed the street to the Pavilion Hotel, en-



'8 PERSONAL REMINISCENCES.

tered the room we had occupied, and closed the door.
Barber was requested to take the chair and Rowell
to act as secretary. Field arose, saying that he had
a motion to make which he had committed to writ-
ing. It was brief but comprehensive. " I move," he
read, " that we organize a new party to be called the
' Free Soil Party ; ' that its platform shall be un-
compromising resistance to the extension of slavery
or the slave power ; that we select a State Committee
of five persons ; that we establish a weekly newspaper
to be published in Burlington and called the Free
Soil Courier; that we assess ourselves for money
enough to pay for publishing four numbers ; that we
name its editors ; that the first number be issued as
early as it can be prepared, and that it contain our
address to the people of Vermont. "

There was no discussion, for the motion was drawn
after our consultation of the previous evening. It
was passed at once iiem. con., and the first Free Soil
party formed in this republic, and out of the loins
of which came the most effective political organiza-
tion witnessed by the nineteenth century — the grand
old Republican party — v/as organized.

Field was then appointed to write the address.
Edward A. Stansbury, an active, young anti-slavery
Whig, was in the hotel. He was sent for, came,
and, after our action was explained, agreed to join
us and to become the temporary editor of the Cour-
ier. "We then subscribed iifty dollars each to the
publication fund, and adjourned in time for an early
dinner. Before the arrival of the daily stage for
Burlington (for Vermont had no railroads then)
Field had completed his address to the people. It
was read, amended, and adopted. I was named as



THE FIRST FREE SOIL PARTY. 9

chairman and Stansbury as a member of the State
Committee, and we were authorized to name the
three remaining members — two from the old Whig
and one from the Democratic party.

As I write after the lapse of forty-five years, the
scenes of that day come back to me with vivid dis-
tinctness. Except myself all the actors have gone
over to the great majority. For a few moments I
call back Barber, his round, moon-like face beaming
with delight as he croons the death-song of the Dem-
ocratic party which he is composing. Stansbury,
his sharp eyes sparkling through his gold-rimmed
spectacles, is hunting for some one whom he may
" pitch into, " always preferring a " Hunker. " Rowell,
expert with the pen, is making a list of our probable
recruits to whom the Cou7'ier is to be sent. Field,
saturnine and solemn, declares that, as he contem-
plates the wreck of the Democracy, he for the first
time understands the sensations of Marius surrounded
by the ruins of Carthage. He would prefer a nice,
fresh ruin with an agreeable odor, he declares, for
those of the Democracy have a stale and graveyard
kind of smell; while Walker recommends to Henry
Stevens, of Barnet, that as those ruins are already
desiccated, he should gather them up and deposit
them in his receptacle for things lost upon earth.
Even now there is a sensation of fun about the whole
affair, for we were all then enjoying life in the
freshness and vigor of that youth which, alas! never
returns.

We never paid our subscriptions to the Free Soil
Courier. On the first day of August Stansbury
brought out the first number. It was so racy that
the old hand-press upon which it was printed was



10 PERSONAL REMINISCENCES.

kept running until it was wanted for the second
number. Subscriptions for the twelve numbers to
be issued before the November elections came in so
rapidly that the enterprise was a paying one from
the start.

I am aware that it is the prevailing opinion that
there were no organizations of the Free Soil party
in the New England States until after the Buffalo
convention, held in August, 1848. Even Henry
Wilson, who is usuallj^ accurate, fell into that error.
Our organization had been in active operation for
six weeks before the Buffalo convention was called.



CHAPTER II.

The Van Burens— The New York Barn-
Burners.

In June, 1848, the feud between the Barn-Burners
and the Hunkers of New York was at fever heat.
The Evening Post was the organ, "Prince" John
Van Buren the recognized leader of the Barn-Burners.
One of the first and most encouraging evidences that
our movement begun at Montpelier was attracting
attention was a letter from William C. Bryant, then
chief editor of the Evening Post, urging us to
persevere and either nominate a State ticket or adopt
the candidates of the Liberty part}-. We had already
determined to adopt those candidates, for they were
men of worth and ability.

During the last week in June I received a letter
from John Van Buren urging me to come to Albany
on the 1st of July. On reaching that city, I was,
on the morning of July 2d, introduced to a party
of gentlemen, some of whom I think have been mem-
bers of about every political party which has since
been formed. I cannot now recall the names of all
of them. "Prince" John Van Buren was by com-
mon consent the leader. I remember also N. S. Ben-
ton, at one time Secretary of State, Judge James, of
Ogdensburgh, and Cassidy, afterward editor of the
Albany Atlas, at first a Free Soil sheet, but after-
ward transferred with its editor to the Argus, an
11



12 PERSONAL REMINISCENCES.

ultra-Hunker journal. There too I first met Will-
iam Curtis Noyes, and formed a friendship inter-
rupted only by his death. He appeared to be a
genuine lover of freedom, a sharp fighter, and a de-
termined, but fair and honorable opponent of the
slave power. Among the party there was also an-
other young lawyer from New York City. He was
said to be an immense card — a man of extraordinary
brilliancy and adroitness. He had just written
some excoriation of the Hunkers which had given
him great eclat. His name was Samuel J. Tilden.
He was understood to breathe no atmosphere that was
not saturated with hatred of the Hunker Democracy.

It was very apparent at the first meeting that the
object of these gentlemen was to defeat General
Cass rather than to restrict slavery. Cass had re-
ceived the Democratic nomination for the Presidency
and was supported by the Hunker wing of the New
York Democracy. The Barn-Burners had bolted his
nomination, and had decided to hold another conven-
tion and nominate ex-President Van Buren on a
Free Soil platform. The purpose of the meeting at



Online LibraryL. E. (Lucius Eugene) ChittendenPersonal reminiscences, 1840-1890 : including some not hitherto published of Lincoln and the war → online text (page 1 of 29)