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Two years after our marriage, my husband was seriously ill from an affection of the throat, and consulted Dr. Green, an eminent specialist of Philadelphia. He was ordered to a warmer climate, and forbidden to speak in or out of court. The tiny law office at a corner of the court green in Charlottesville was abandoned, and we hastened to Petersburg, near his birthplace. As it was absolutely impossible for him to exist without occupation, he purchased a newspaper, sallied forth one morning to solicit subscribers for "The South Side Democrat," and before a week's end was justified in beginning its issue.

This step determined his career in life. He did not practise law until he came to New York in 1865.

At the age of twenty-two he became an enthusiastic editor. The little South Side Democrat soon evinced pluck and spirit. Its youthful editor sailed his small craft right into the troubled sea of politics, local and national, to sink or swim according to its merits and the wisdom of its pilot. It was loved of the gods, with the inevitable result,—but not until he left it.

Stephen A. Douglas.

I remember our first meeting with Stephen A. Douglas, so soon to become a conspicuous figure in our political history. He had just returned from Europe, and was passing through Petersburg with 85his first wife (Miss Martin of North Carolina), and of course glad to talk with the editor of a Democratic paper, aspiring as he did to the highest office in the country. He was thirty-nine years old, and below the average height. But the word insignificant could never have been applied to him. There was something in his air, his carriage, that forbade it. His massive head, his resolute face, more than compensated for his short stature.

He has always been accused of rude, unconventional manners. He was enough of a courtier to inform me that I resembled the Empress Eugénie.

To us he took the trouble to be charming, talked of his European experience—of everything, in fact, except the perilous stuff burning in his own bosom, his hunger for the presidency. Like my editor, he had been admitted to the bar before he had reached his majority. The parallel was to appear again later. Mr. Douglas also had been a representative in Congress at thirty.

My husband was a delegate to the Democratic Convention that nominated Franklin Pierce in 1852, and Mr. Douglas suffered himself to be a candidate.

The "Little Giant" received at first only 20 votes, but he steadily increased until Virginia cast her 15 votes for Mr. Pierce, after which there was "a stampede" which decided the matter. Some writer reminded Douglas that vaulting ambition overleaps itself, but added dryly, "Perhaps the little Judge never read Shakespeare and does not think of this."

An interesting event in Petersburg was a brief 86visit from Louis Kossuth en route to the Southern and Western cities, his avowed purpose being "to invoke the aid of the great American republic to protect his people; peaceably, if they may, by the moral influence of their declarations; but forcibly, if they must, by the physical power of their arm—to prevent any foreign interference in the struggle to be renewed for the liberties of Hungary."

Our Congress, it will be remembered,[1] had, after Kossuth's defeat and his detention in Turkey—whither he had fled for refuge—directed the President to offer one of the ships of our Mediterranean squadron to bring him and his suite to our country. The Turkish government had no especial use for Governor Kossuth as a guest or as a captive, and accordingly he landed from the steamer Vanderbilt which had been sent with a committee to meet him, at New York quarantine, December 5, 1851, at one o'clock in the morning. Early as was the hour, a great crowd collected on shore to greet him. A salute of twenty-one guns and an address of welcome from the health-officer at once assured him that he came to us, not to be pitied as a defeated refugee, but to receive all honor due a conquering hero. As his boat steamed by, Governor's Island gave him a salute of thirty-one guns, New Jersey one hundred and twenty, and New York,—but we know how New York can behave! Steamers, great and small, whistled, pistols and guns were fired, Hungarian cheers were shouted, and our Stars and Stripes took into close embrace the Hungarian flag. We know 87New York hospitality, and her enthusiasm, nay, crazy excitement when something, anything, novel and interesting happens.

When Kossuth reached Castle Garden, the unhappy mayor essayed in vain to read his speech. Speech, indeed! A hundred thousand throats were aching with a speech, and they delivered it with a roar!

"There was," says a reporter, "a continuous roar of cheers like waves on the shore." Every house was decorated; and as the hero passed, mounted on Black Warrior, a horse which had borne conquerors in many Florida and Mexican wars, the street was jammed with enthusiastic people, and the windows alive with women and children. Never, since the landing of Lafayette, had New York so abandoned herself to enthusiasm. The story is too long—of the speeches, processions, dinners, receptions, fire-works, etc.—to be repeated fully in these pages.

Of course, the little South Side Democrat threw up its cap with the rest. Kossuth, when he reached the town, had already received honors of which his wildest fancy never dreamed, and we did our best to echo them according to our ability. There were several ladies in his suite to whom I paid my respects (I am not sure his wife was among them), and the only impression they made upon me was one of extreme weariness. They spoke English fairly well, but were too utterly worn out to exhibit the least animation. Kossuth spoke English perfectly. He had a long talk with my young editor, to whom he gave a huge cigar, which was never reduced to ashes! 88But after he left, the South Side Democrat came to its senses (having never utterly lost them), and expressed a decided opinion in favor of the non-intervention of this country in the affairs of Hungary, giving good reasons therefor. Kossuth, when the paper was handed him, read the editorial carefully, and exclaimed, "So young, and yet so depraved!" adding, with his usual tact, "I mean, of course, politically!"

But even at this highest pinnacle of glory in New York, when an editorial banquet was given him at The Astor by George Bancroft, William Cullen Bryant, Henry J. Raymond, Parke Godwin, Henry Ward Beecher, Charles A. Dana, and others, Mr. Webster had coldly declined attendance.

His letter was received with hisses and groans. "Kossuth," said Mr. Webster, in a private letter from Washington, "is a gentleman in appearance and demeanor, is handsome enough in person, evidently intellectual and dignified, amiable and graceful in his manners. I shall treat him with all personal and individual respect; but if he should speak to me of the policy of 'intervention,' I shall have ears more deaf than adders'."

The Senate, the President, Congress, all received him cordially. He dined at the White House; was treated with the utmost distinction, and a seat of honor assigned him on the floor of the Senate; but before he left Washington, every one except himself knew that his mission had failed. He soon discovered it, and appealed no longer for intervention but for money. He complained bitterly at Pittsburg 89that he had received little but costly banquets and foolish parades. The net amount of the contributions to his cause was less than $100,000, and according to his statement at Pittsburg, only $30,000 remained for the purchase of muskets. We had expressed with enthusiasm our appreciation of his patriotism, courage, and devotion. We had entertained him en prince. We had added a substantial gift. It was not enough.

The citizens of New York very soon calmed down, and by the middle of January the name of Kossuth was rarely mentioned. When Congress came to audit his hotel bill, it fairly gasped! The retainers of the poor refugee had not been poor livers. They had occupied luxurious apartments, and proved beyond a shadow of doubt the Hungarian appreciation of old Madeira and champagne. No one, however, could accuse the hero himself of excess. Still, all at once, he seemed less of a hero.

One unprejudiced looker-on in Vienna, Ampère, wrote of Kossuth at the editorial dinner, "He has the bad taste to love fanciful dress, wore a lévite of black velvet, and seemed to me much less imposing than when he harangued, leaning upon his sword, in the hall at Castle Garden." Ampère also philosophizes upon our American enthusiasm,—"the only lively amusement of the multitude in a country where one has little to amuse one. It is without consequence and without danger, simply to let out the steam (à lacher la vapeur), not to cause explosions but to prevent them."

"The American likes excitement," says Bryce in 90'The American Commonwealth,' "but he is shrewd and keen; his passion seldom obscures his reason; he keeps his head when a Frenchman, or an Italian, or even a German, would lose it. Yet he is also of an excitable temper, with emotions capable of being quickly and strongly stirred. He likes excitement for its own sake, and goes wherever he can find it."

The Kossuth episode vividly illustrated this! Sic transit gloria—be it prince or patriot!

My young editor had soon to leave the South Side Democrat under the care of a foster-father. He was summoned to Washington—lured less by a fine salary than the larger field—to edit with John W. Forney the Washington union, then the national Democratic organ. It was desired that one of the two editors should be from the South. Mr. Forney represented the North.


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