I. The Experience of a Private Secretary.
Samuel J. Barrows
“It often happens,” says Thomas à Kempis, “that a stranger whom the voice of fame has made illustrious loses all the brightness of his character the moment he is seen and known.” Abundant illustration could be found of the unwelcome truth which these words convey; but I quote them here only to say that they are not true of the man of whom I write.
It was in the fall of 1867, while occupying a position on the staff of a New York daily journal, that I received, one day, a letter from the State Department, Washington, offering me the position of stenographic secretary to William H. Seward. Up to that time, though familiar with his public career, I had never seen Mr. Seward personally. It is one indication of the unsuspiciousness of his character that he called to this position a person whom he had not even seen, and whose previous connection with a daily paper might have been supposed to unfit him for the important duty of keeping state secrets. Though fond of games of chance, it must not be supposed that the Secretary of State was amusing himself with one in this instance, or that he had drawn his bow wholly at a venture. It rather illustrates the degree to which my predecessor, Mr. D. C. McEwen, had won his confidence; for, on voluntarily resigning, he had been invited to name a successor.
It is not possible to hear of a man who for twenty years has been a centre of public attention without forming some general impression of his personality. In these days of photographs, engravings, and plausible caricatures, the external features of a public man soon become familiar to the eye. Yet the imagination has to endow them with life, and the ideal does not always correspond with the real. As I walked into the State Department, the William H. Seward I met was not entirely the one I had pictured. His figure was less commanding than I had fancied, — a fancy derived, perhaps, from the stateliness of his orations. The mark of the assassin’s knife was upon him, and had left the muscles of his face on one side much contracted and made his utterance thick. But ii was unmistakably William H. Seward who welcomed me with impassive courtesy and the faint kindling of a smile on the scarred cheek. There was the lofty and slightly receding brow, the large head running well back, long rather than wide in its development, and that strong aquiline nose, which one soon recognized as the outgrowth of his character as well as of his face.
Not a word was spoken by the Secretary of State as to the confidential nature of the duties I was to perform, no pledge was exacted, nor did he utter a syllable of caution, or seek, in this interview or at any other time, to effect a mutual understanding. Mr. Seward was possessed of acuteness and caution. But they did not create suspicion. He had the fine instincts of the gentleman and the keen intuition, sharpened by long experience, of the practiced student of human nature. Instead of putting his new secretary upon probation, he took it for granted that he was entirely familiar with the duties of his office, and that his newspaper experience had not rendered him a public gossip. Far more assuring than any effusive welcome was this restrained but characteristic courtesy which assumed that mutual confidence already existed. I was treated as if I had held the position for years. It was this utter absence of suspicion, the implicit faith in his assistant, his tacit assumption that the man whom he had called to this office would recognize its obligations without a single word from him, which immediately made the relation intimate and pleasant. The only time that I ever knew him to allude to this delicate subject at all was on one occasion when a third person was in the room, who seemed not wholly at ease by reason of my presence. Mr. Seward ventured a smiling assurance that his stenographer was familiar with the duties of his position.
I entered the service of Mr. Seward at a time when things were politically at loose ends. The war was over, but its smoke had not disappeared. The frayed-out sovereignty of the seceded States had not yet been woven together. It was the era of reconstruction, — a period of conflicting views, strong party feeling, and manifold complications. President Johnson had made his famous tour through the country which did more to increase the popularity of Mr. Petroleum V. Nasby than that of Andrew Johnson. Mr. Seward had lost caste with the Republican party through his participation in that tour. It was a time of angry, eruptive feeling. The conflict between the President and Congress had assumed threatening proportions, and was soon to culminate in the gusty outbreak of the impeachment trial. The cloud had lifted from our foreign relations. Englishmen were no longer sending cruisers to prey on our commerce, under the Confederate flag. France had received a dispatch from Mr. Seward, one of the triumphs of his diplomatic career, inviting her, in decorous but imperative English, to withdraw her troops from Mexico. Napoleon was not in a condition to decline the invitation, but little dreamed that a few years later his own fortunes would be as completely wrecked as those of Maximilian, his victim. Thus the great question of foreign intervention which had darkened the national horizon had been swept away by the last gun of the war. Europe had concluded that we were capable of settling our difficulties ourselves. But England’s position in the war had left a legacy of dispute. The Alabama claims was a hot subject to handle. In South America there was a volcanic state of political eruption, and Mexico’s head was swimming a little from the excitement of fresh revolution.
It will thus be seen that Mr. Seward’s work as a statesman, though it had reached its climax, was by no means completed. Yet this period of his life is far less familiar to the public than that which preceded it. Mr. Lincoln died at the climax of his fame. Mr. Seward escaped by a narrow margin. Had he died then, the country would have been filled with monuments commemorating his martyrdom. As it is, there are many who assume that the attempt on his life, which so nearly succeeded, was the real end of his public career. I doubt if Mr. Seward will ever receive his full share of recognition and gratitude for the work he did after he once more resumed his seat in the cabinet. Yet this work had an important influence on our political and diplomatic history.
No one could occupy the position of confidential secretary, in close personal relation to Mr. Seward, without receiving revelations of the man not enjoyed by the public, and without witnessing some of the processes by which American history was enacted. It was a rare privilege to be admitted behind the curtain which separated the Secretary of State from the public eye. It was an admission to confidences which are still and always will be held sacred. But it is gratifying to think that a large part of such experience the public at this later date may freely share.
The State Department at that time was quartered in a brick building on Fourteenth Street, between R and S, which had been built for an orphan asylum, and was rented temporarily by the government. The building compares but poorly with the elegant structure in which the State Department is now housed, but it answered well for a term of years. Mr. Seward was living on Fifteenth Street, near Lafayette Square. His house was about a mile distant from the Department, and his coupé going back and forth on Fourteenth Street was a familiar sight. He usually appeared at the Department about half past nine or ten in the morning, and entered the large room in which he did his work by a back staircase communicating directly with the driveway. Immediately adjoining this room, on one side, was the office of the Assistant Secretary, then held by his son, Hon. Frederick Seward. Double doors opened into the large diplomatic room, used for the reception of foreign ministers. A private staircase led from the Secretary’s room to the State Department library above. On arriving at his office, Mr. Seward found the mail before him on his desk. The chief clerk had opened and arranged official communications. There were dispatches from consuls and ministers from all quarters of the globe. Sometimes it was a formal acknowledgment from some remote consulate of a dispatch received from the Department, sometimes a paper weighty in purport from the centre of European political influence. Some consul, in his lonely remoteness in Africa, Asia, or Manitoba, had endeavored to make up by literary activity what the consulate seemed to lack in commercial importance. The same mail which brought a detailed description of a new line of foreign industry, which a consul thought might profitably be introduced into this country, contained the interesting particulars of a brawl in which some wandering citizen of the United States had appealed for the protection of the government. Or it may have been a dispatch from Mr. Adams or Reverdy Johnson on the Alabama claims, or a treaty or protocol with reference to a South American state. In addition to dispatches from our own consuls and ministers, there were communications from the representatives of other powers in this country. The inclosures with these dispatches were frequently voluminous, and the copies of original papers sent were often written in foreign languages. The mail was sifted by the assistant secretaries, and the merely routine matter was referred to the heads of the different departments, who recorded and filed communications, and prepared suitable acknowledgments, and submitted them at the close of the day for Mr. Seward’s signature. But it was only the mechanical, routine work which was thus taken out of his hands. The Secretary kept intimately familiar with the details of the whole consulate and diplomatic system. There was no portion of the globe that might not suddenly demand his attention. At one side of the room was a series of several large maps, mounted on rollers and easily pulled down, like a window-shade. Mr. Seward never undertook to answer the dispatch of a consulate with whose location he was not already familiar without finding its position on the map. His knowledge of foreign geography when he entered the Department was, he told me, somewhat vague; but under this self-imposed tutelage it soon became extensive. There was nothing out of the ordinary routine of communication that did not receive his personal attention, or was not the subject of conference with the assistant secretaries or chiefs of bureaus. He never delegated to a subordinate any part of the responsibility which belonged to himself. On the other hand, he trusted his subordinates to the fullest extent. He was not fussy about details. Sometimes a few lines on the corner of a communication indicated the spirit or general nature of the reply, and the bureau clerks were trusted to put it into diplomatic language. The Assistant Secretary, Mr. Frederick Seward, had general charge of the consular bureau, and relieved his father of a great amount of work and responsibility. Mr. Hunter, who had been in the Department for some thirty years or more, was an authority on all subjects of diplomatic precedent, and a general conserver of its traditions.
But after he had assigned to his subordinates all the work which he could commit to them, there was still a large balance requiring Mr. Seward’s personal attention. The government exacted from him a certain amount of penmanship every day. The chief clerk could frank the Department mail on the envelope, but he could not sign dispatches. The passport bureau was also a function of the State Department, and every passport that went from the office must bear on it the signature of the Secretary of State. He could not leave the State Department for a few days without signing a large number of passport blanks in advance. One would suppose that the seal of the Department authenticated by an assistant secretary would be sufficient, without turning the prime minister of the United States into a writing-machine. This mechanical labor was the most irksome portion of Mr. Seward’s duties. He had recovered from the attempt on his life with the powers of his mind unimpaired, but his right hand had lost much of its cunning. It was painful for him to write a letter, and a task even to sign his name. The capitals in his signature were distinguishable, but it was little more than an impatient wave line, a heavy trailing of the hand, that joined the S and the d. We have wondered whether the foreign officials who scrutinized the travelers’ passports could read the signature at the bottom. It reminded one of the shambling gait of Homer’s crook-horned oxen.
Mr. Seward’s mechanical difficulty in wielding a pen rendered the use of a stenographer a necessity. It was not without much mental effort and the exercise of determined resolution that he succeeded in changing his previous habit of composing with pen in hand to the habit of thinking aloud. The art of dictation is one that must be acquired. It is easily mastered for the straight forward routine of business correspondence; it is less easily applied to the studied formality and sinuous elegance of diplomatic papers. Mr. Seward, though capable of great dexterity in veiling a theme, did not accept Talleyrand’s definition of diplomacy as the art of concealing thought. Some of his papers are remarkable for the force which they concentrate on a single idea, and their vigor is not diminished by the courtesy with which they are expressed. But his words were carefully weighed, and they were chosen with as much care as David chose his smooth stones from the brook. The task of phrasing his thought through a stenographer he found so difficult at first that he feared he would have to abandon it. Eventually dictation became a relief to him, and his capacity for work was much increased. From his impaired utterance it was not always easy to understand him, especially, as was frequently the case, when he was smoking a cigar during the operation. I dare not say how many cigars he consumed in the course of a day. No one could better appreciate Lowell’s tribute to the poetic satisfaction of this form of indulgence than the Secretary of State, and no one could less appreciate it than his stenographer. When dictating a long dispatch, he would frequently rise from his desk and pace up and down the large room, with his hands behind his back and his eyes fixed steadily on the floor. Ringing the bell to summon a messenger, the dictation would be suspended for a few minutes, that some important paper might be produced. While waiting for the document, he would resume his promenade, and tell his amanuensis a story which some aspect of the case had suggested. This fund of reminiscence was large, and I have often felt that if courtesy in diplomatic usage had permitted me to introduce these interpolations, an element of popularity would have been added to the strength and elegance of his state papers. He dictated slowly, often revising a good deal as he went along, and leaving much to the stenographer’s conception of the sense as to which of the alternative phrases should be retained. A slight gesture or a simple deprecating shake of the head was often the only indication that a sentence was to be crossed out, and replaced by one that followed. He did not phrase his thought silently before he uttered it. He simply thought aloud. It was interesting to watch his mental operations. To write out in order all that he actually said in dictating a dispatch would have produced a curious confusion or succession of words; but there was no confusion of ideas. Thus he would sometimes begin a letter with “Respected Friend,” then change it to “Honored Sir,” or substitute two or three other titles, the last naturally representing his final choice. It was therefore necessary for his amanuensis to be something more than a phonograph echoing all his utterances. An amusing instance of the result of taking down his words with Chinese servility, without paying any attention to the sense, was afforded by a young man who undertook to relieve me during a severe illness. He showed the literal awe in which he held the Secretary by successively writing the several titles with which Mr. Seward had begun a communication, while the body of the letter presented the same curious exhibition of literary patchwork. Mr. Seward had got over any delicacy about revealing his mental operations to a stenographer, but he naturally did not wish to have them revealed to the public with the same freedom.
When a dispatch was important, I usually re-read to him the notes I had taken. He revised severely, sometimes striking out a whole line, and substituting a single word which seemed to gather up all the energy and dignity of the sentence. Accustomed as he had been for years to the careful and precise use of the pen, a man of his mental habit and command of language could not easily be guilty of crudities or careless forms of expression. But he did not allow the habit of dictation to tower in any degree his standard of English composition. Accuracy was more important to him than facility. He came to use the pen of a stenographer precisely as he would have used his own. Sometimes he found it better to strike out the whole of a dispatch and begin again, but he generally got the logical order right to start with; and his labor was mainly spent in shading his thought or condensing it. His revisions seldom, if ever, had the effect of diluting his thought. If he repeated a word or added a synonym, it was not the result of careless redundance, but because he felt that it added vitality to the sentence. On one occasion, Mr. Hunter, the Second Assistant Secretary, called the attention of Mr. Seward to a sentence in a dispatch in which he had used in close juxtaposition three words meaning nearly the same thing. “I know it,” said Mr. Seward, “but I want them there for emphasis.” I did not preserve this example, but I remember that the words were so arranged that they gave the effect of several successive blows. One might have been sufficient for the rhythm or the sense of the period, and a mere rhetorician of the dogmatic type, would have condemned the iteration; but Mr. Seward’s object was to prolong a mental impression, and so reinforce the conviction.
After a dispatch had been read to him from stenographic notes, it was transcribed on every other line of wide-ruled dispatch paper. He went over it again carefully in the transcript. If excessive revision was demanded, it was re-dictated; but in the case of ordinary dispatches the first copy of my notes, with a few verbal corrections made with his pencil, was sent to the diplomatic division to which it belonged, to be re-copied for his signature.
Though preferring and generally securing conditions of composure in preparing his dispatches, Mr. Seward was capable, under pressure, of turning out work with rapidity. More than once I have been called, on a cabinet day, half an hour before the appointed time, to receive a dispatch or communication to be read to the President and discussed in cabinet session. The carriage was waiting at the door before he got through. Then the hot shorthand must be transcribed at a rate of speed not conducive to legibility, and placed in a large portfolio which he carried with him to the cabinet meetings. There were times when dispatches from abroad, communications from resident ministers, and resolutions from Congress all converged. The Secretary’s absence from Washington for a few days created an excessive accumulation of documents. But as a general thing Mr. Seward drove his work instead of allowing it to drive him. He stayed at the Department from ten o’clock until three, unless an unusually large mail or more exigent business detained him later. If the weather were fine, he often walked most of the way home, having the coupé go along with him in case he felt inclined to take it. He never went to the Department evenings, and it was very rare that I was summoned to his house in the evening to continue the work. On Sundays, however, he occasionally dictated an important dispatch. There were times when the foreign relations of the United States were so complacent that two hours a day would serve to clear the dispatch box on the Secretary’s table; and I recall one week of my association with him in which, though present every day at the Department, he dictated nothing from Monday until Friday. The State Department library, which he did much to develop, was an unfailing pleasure and resource to him in the dull seasons of diplomacy, and I am bound to say that his stenographer never complained of ennui in this library. The price of such intervals of calm was paid for at other seasons, when diplomatic logomachy was at its height.
It was gratifying to find that the assassin’s knife had left no scar upon Mr. Seward’s mind. It was still characterized by keenness of discernment, largeness of grasp, an unusual power to see through the mazes of diplomatic entanglements, and the habit of coördinating great principles and applying them with practical sagacity to the smallest cases. In clearness of perception, in vigor of thought, in vividness of memory and power of expression, he had suffered no decline.
Mr. Seward’s absorption in the business of the State Department brought him less frequently before the public as an orator than during his earlier political career. It was part of the duties of his office to receive the foreign ministers who presented their credentials. He always wrote the formal speech which the President was to make in reply to the foreign ambassadors. Such work was rather an exhibition of etiquette than a presentation of argument. It was always done with grace and dignity. But apart from these and various other minor speech-making episodes, I had an opportunity to watch the construction and delivery of the last formal political oration which Mr. Seward made to his townsmen in Auburn, New York. It was his custom to go home every year and vote, and from time to time he was called upon to expound the issues of the elections. He was a prophet not without honor in his own country. I doubt if he ever addressed an audience with more pleasure than those which from time to time gathered to hear him at Auburn. The address he delivered just previous to the presidential election in 1868 had great public interest from Mr. Seward’s political relations at that time. Grant had been nominated by the Republicans, Seymour by the Democrats. Mr. Seward’s support of Mr. Johnson during the convulsion which ended in the impeachment trial, involving him in a prolonged contention with Congress and the Republican party, awakened much interest as to how he would cast his vote in the election pending, and what counsel he would give to his townsmen. He had been subjected to severe criticism. A large number of his former political friends had stood opposed to him in this conflict. In speaking to his constituents at Auburn, on this occasion, it was felt that he was speaking to the whole country.
Mr. Seward brought to the preparation of this important speech the same method with which he constructed his more important dispatches. He made no skeleton, no plan of architecture; it was slowly evolved in dictation, and gradually assumed form and proportion. He never dictated scraps of thought, side suggestions, headings, or memoranda. He began with the introduction, and dictated his speech precisely as if he had been suddenly called upon to deliver it extemporaneously, though not with the fluency which he would have exhibited on such an occasion. On the contrary, it was not prepared in any heat of inspiration, but was a cool, slow process of intellectual elaboration. He could not work with any comfort in the middle of a speech unless he had fashioned it right to start with. He would write his introduction over three or four times, if necessary, before advancing to the body of his speech. He grudged no such pains himself, but as if to justify himself to his stenographer, he reminded me that Gibbon had written the introduction to his history several times before he was satisfied with it.
As with the introduction, so with the body of the speech. It grew by the same slow process of evolution. If not intense or impassioned in composition, his style was elevated, restrained, and intellectually clear and broad. The first draft of his speech was cast with a proportion and finish with which a host of minor orators might have been amply content. But his stenographer knew well enough that this first structure was practically to be razed to the ground, and an ampler and more elegant one reared in its stead. To be sure, it was of the same general architecture, for Mr. Seward, as I have before remarked, very seldom inverted or wholly reconstructed the logical order of his speeches. It was built, too, of the same carefully pressed brick, which is not an inapt figure for his smooth and solid sentences. But there was a fresh application of mortar to bind the parts together with increasing solidity, here and there new windows of illustration, and more graceful decorations. But the end was not yet. Though the speech was not again completely taken to pieces, it was gone over for a third time with the same minute care. My transcript of his dictation had been re-copied by a clerk. This third copy was cut up and revised with indefatigable attention. I am sure the address was written not less than four times, and parts of it not less than five, before it was considered to be in. a shape for public delivery. Even then it was not done. Mr. Seward wrote not to get the speech out of his mind, but to get his mind thoroughly into his speech. If he had had two weeks more to work on it, I should not have been surprised if he had written it over two or three times more. His oration was not really finished until he had delivered it.
An incident will show how plastic his material was in his hands even after the intellectual statue of his speech bad been cast and thoroughly polished. Mr. Seward, accompanied by Mr. Diman (a confidential clerk in the Department of State) and myself, started from Washington for Auburn, with the speech in our possession. We arrived at Jersey City in the morning, and took breakfast together at Taylor’s. In the course of the conversation, which turned somewhat on the subject of political revolution, Mr. Diman told a story of a man who, during the French Revolution, went into a bookstore in Paris and asked for a copy of the French constitution.
“We do not deal in periodical publications,” was the reply.
Mr. Seward laughed, and said, “That is so good I must use it;” and when certain portions of the address were recast again, after our arrival in Auburn, the story was happily introduced. It will be found on page 545, volume v. of Seward’s Works.
But although Mr. Seward re-wrote his speech so often, he did not commit it verbally to memory. By this constant occupation with his materials his mind became thoroughly infused with his subject, and instead of being drained and depleted by the process, its creative power was only intensified. As a good illustration of this I may refer to the final delivery of the speech itself. Much was my surprise to find, after reaching Auburn, that the voluminous manuscript, so carefully prepared, was not to be used on the platform. It was really intended for the press. Mr. Seward could not speak to his townsmen from such a pile of paper. In the few days which intervened before the delivery of the address, his work at Auburn consisted, not in elaborating it, but in going through it and making a careful abstract, which, re-written by a clerk in a bold hand, with not more than fifty or sixty words on a page, covered about twenty pages of foolscap. The abstract presented a complete epitome of all the points in the speech. They were suggested by phrases and catchwords. Mr. Seward then went over this abstract, and made another, much shorter. With these few pages he was to go before the audience.
When the time came, the orator stood somewhat on the left of the platform, with a small table before him, on which was placed the brief syllabus of his speech. At the other end of the platform I sat at a table, with the complete manuscript of the speech before me. I was not near enough to prompt the speaker, if he had needed me, without at least raising my voice loud enough to be heard by the audience. But no such service was necessary. Mr. Seward had been besieged by the press for copies of his oration. He had concluded to give it out impartially through the medium of the Associated Press. As fast, therefore, as he delivered it, I gave it out page by page to the press messengers. The orator was delivering his address directly to his townsmen, while I, as his agent, was indirectly delivering it to fifty millions of people.
It was interesting to note that the two speeches were not coincident in language. The introduction in both was substantially the same, but slight departures were soon evident, and began to multiply. The speaker’s brain was acting with fresh creative power. The plan of the speech was firmly wrought in his mind, but the verbal vestment was not the same. I took my pencil, and, opening my note-book, followed him stenographically for some time, simply to watch the working of his mind. Evidently his elaborate preparation had not fettered him. The structure of his sentences was frequently inverted. Sometimes they would lose in polish and elegance, but gain in force and directness. He was not reading from the brain; he was thinking on his feet. Much of his thought naturally flowed into channels of expression which he had previously moulded. But he was sensitive to the influences about him, and not only new expressions, but new ideas and illustrations, which had not been hammered out on the forge, came to him at the time, and were flashed out with spontaneous effect. A nearly verbatim report of his speech was made for one of the Auburn papers. After returning to Washington, Mr. Seward and myself compared this report with the speech as originally written. In preparing it for publication in pamphlet form, he relied almost entirely upon the carefully prepared manuscript issued to the press. In this he was right. The speech as he gave it from brief notes had more of the fire and freedom of extemporaneous delivery, but as published from manuscript it had more of the calmness, dignity, and intellectual. sobriety of a state paper. In his oratorical habit, Mr. Seward thus differed considerably from Edward Everett. Rev. Dr. George E. Ellis, on the occasion of the delivery of one of Mr. Everett’s great speeches, likewise sat with a manuscript before him, and Mr. Everett, he says, did not vary a single preposition from the text.
I find myself tempted most of all to dwell upon Mr. Seward’s characteristics as a man. His career as a statesman is open to the view of all who wish to turn to the annals of the nation. His orations and speeches, together with a sketch of his life, written and edited by the late Geo. E. Baker, are before the public in the five volumes of his published works. The diplomatic records contain his state papers, but the personal life of the man is a book open only to those who had the privilege of turning its leaves.
One of the things that impressed me about Mr. Seward was the interesting union of native kindness of heart with a manner which was calmly undemonstrative. I say “calmly” rather than “coldly,” for with all his impassiveness Mr. Seward was not a chilly man. There was an even-tempered, genial radiation which was soon felt by those who came within the range of his personal life. It was not a warmth which was intense, but, like a well-regulated furnace, he gave out about so much heat all the time. He was not mercurial, or fitful, or capricious, in his treatment of others. Without doing or saying much he soon made one feel at home in his presence. There is a reserve which chills; there is a reserve which reassures, because by its disdain of formalities and gushing conventionalism it is seen to be an attribute of sincerity. He was one of the most democratic of men. It made no difference whether the man who called upon him was a cabinet minister, an ambassador from a foreign court, or a day laborer; there was no toadyism, nothing which by the remotest connection could be identified with the snob. In his intercourse with diplomatic representatives he formed some intimate friendships. But if a foreign representative obtained admission to the inner circle of his confidence, it was not because of the uniform he wore or the credentials he brought. The simplicity of Mr. Seward’s republican manners was never sacrificed. He understood the value of forms, and paid due respect to all diplomatic traditions, but he was not a fussy or punctilious ritualist.
There was nothing cynical in his calm manner. This almost stoical self-control had been developed through long years of self-discipline. His power to restrain his emotions did not involve their suppression. His native kindness of heart was sure to reveal itself. I shall not forget the quiet, undemonstrative, yet unmistakable kindness with which he first welcomed me. The relation was to be an intimately personal one, but it was established at once in Mr. Seward’s manner and by his few words as distinctly as if he had issued a public proclamation to that effect. “I am glad to see you,” he said, as he took my hand. “I leave to-night for Auburn. Will you go with me, or will you take a night’s rest here, and join me there later?” The indication in these words that the Secretary of State had some thought for the personal comfort of the young man whom he had just summoned to be his stenographer was a pleasing introduction to his fellowship. Though fatigued by the journey of the night before, the temptation to go with him was too inviting to be resisted, and I joined the party in the evening at the station. A special pay-master’s car had been placed at Mr. Seward’s service, and among the party, in addition to his valet and negro servant, were his son, Major Augustus Seward, and Postmaster-General Randall. Hardly had we got well under way when a game of whist was proposed. Though I had the most meagre knowledge of the game, I could not courteously decline to make up the set. Mr. Seward, his son and the Postmaster-General were expert players. My own playing must have been phenomenal, but one could not have gathered from the Secretary’s manner the slightest hint that it was not absolutely satisfactory. He bore this infliction of ignorance and incapacity with the same composure that he bore all other trials. It was my fortune to make many such trips with him, and as he always traveled in a special car these journeys were uniformly pleasant.
His equanimity might have been mistaken for indifference. He was indeed indifferent to a good ninny things, and among them to the gnat-like swarms of criticism that frequently buzzed in the air from the partisan press. He was never insensitive to argument, but he brushed aside petty barbs of malice as if they were so many flies. A characteristic illustration of his composure was given during the impeachment trial. From the outset he did not believe that Johnson would be convicted. The defense of the President had been committed to Mr. Seward’s lifelong friend, William M. Evarts. Mr. Seward did not attend the long trial except two or three times, nor, to my knowledge, did he do anything to influence the decision. All Washington was at a white glow of excitement. The result hung on a single vote, yet no one could learn from Mr. Seward that anything unusual was happening. On the critical day of the trial, I went down to his room to learn the result of the test vote. He was lying on the sofa, with a copy of Rousseau in his hand, smoking and reading. I asked the latest news from the Senate. He told me. Impeachment had failed by one vote. He smiled, and went on reading, as if the country had not just passed through a crisis of tremendous importance.
A story was current in the Department, among the clerks whose term of service ran hack into the war period, that on one occasion an Episcopalian minister, whom Mr. Seward knew to be a sympathizer with the rebellion, came to the Department to ask some favor of him. It is said that Mr. Seward’s indignation waxed so hot that he could only find relief by damning the man up and down, especially down. I cannot vouch for this story, — it was an unverified tradition of the Department; but it is almost a comfort to know that he could sometimes lose his self-control. No want of respect for the ministry must be inferred from this anecdote. He venerated the cloth whenever there was a man beneath it. Rev. Dr. Bellows, whose immense labors as president of the Sanitary Commission were of national value, won his esteem and friendship; and when an agent was needed to go to St. Thomas to report on its resources, Rev. Dr. Hawley, an able Presbyterian minister of Auburn, was chosen for the task.
Mr. Seward was not a saint, but he was a religious man. He attended with regularity the Episcopal church, and I have not forgotten how, when at church with him at his home in Auburn, he guided me through the then unfamiliar mazes of the Prayer-Book. I do not know that I ever found him reading his Bible out of church, but at some period of his life he must have absorbed a good deal of it, for he quoted it often with much felicity. Especially did he turn to the Bible whenever he wrote a Thanksgiving proclamation; for these proclamations were, at least during Mr. Johnson’s administration, prepared by Mr. Seward, and merely received the signature of the President. He delighted to weave into them the reverent gratitude and the fine old English of the Psalms. One of these proclamations was written under circumstances of peculiar personal feeling. After recovering from the attempt on his life, he was in doubt, as he told me, whether his mind would act as it had done previously. By an interesting coincidence his first official duty was to write the Thanksgiving proclamation. His own occasion for thanks at his recovery was redoubled when he found that his brain responded to his heart, and that he could in some measure express the sentiment he felt.
Mr. Seward was broad in his theological views. He went through the ritual of the Church with the same punctiliousness that he observed the ritual of diplomacy; but he complacently ignored narrow theological dogmas. Summing up a little conversation on religion that we had one day, as we rode to the office, he said, “In my view the best preparation for the life hereafter is a good life now and here.”
It is a delicate and responsible task to raise the curtain which conceals the domestic life of a great man from public view. The sacred privacy of the family must be respected. It is from within, not from without, that the veil should be lifted. Yet it would be an artificial reticence which forbade one to testify to the genial and delightful character of Mr. Seward in his domestic relations. It was not possible for him, through so many years of public life, to maintain the domestic retirement of the private citizen. His home was always more or less open to the public. In Washington this was inevitably the case. A public man there can never rid himself of the regalia of the state. The word “home” to Mr. Seward was rather a synonym for Auburn. It was a relief to seek every year at intervals the covert of its friendly shade. “Shade” is not a figure of speech, for he would never have a tree on his place cut if he could help it. His home seemed literally set in a grove of tall trees, many of which had grown up with his growth, and were deemed a part of the family heritage.
At his Auburn home it was always a pleasure for him to receive the visits of many old friends who had been identified with him in his early political life. His son, William H. Seward, lived at the old homestead; and among the pleasures which the Secretary of State had in going home were the hours spent with his grandchildren, who were just at the age when children most appreciate the luxury of a grandfather. He became a willing prey to their most exacting and demonstrative affections. There is one scene which comes up whenever I think of his last speech to his townsmen, the composition of which I have previously described. It is the picture of Mr. Seward sitting in the sunny library at Auburn, with a golden-haired little boy burrowing in his lap, one arm around the child, while the other held the manuscript of his speech, which he read and revised under these distracting influences. The little boy pulled at his watch-chain, investigated his pockets, asked innumerable questions, and furnished what would have been to most men formidable interruptions. But no one could have discovered a sign of impatience or of annoyance on the face of the willing victim, nor any intellectual aberration of his mind. The grandfather in him took care of the child, while the Secretary of State went on with his speech.
I often accompanied Mr. Seward in his daily walks at Auburn. His life had been so long identified with the growth of the town that he made an interesting guidebook. He was not wholly fond of the new architecture; he liked the combination of ancient simplicity with that baronial hospitality which seemed to belong to the old-fashioned estates. On one occasion he criticised an old-fashioned house with a new-fashioned fence, which was of such a light and frivolous character that it gave no indication of the dignity and maturity of the old gentleman who owned it. One Sunday morning, a golden October day, when Auburn was brilliant with autumnal foliage, we walked to the cemetery. “It seems but a few years ago,” he said, as we paused by a familiar mound, “since I saw the first grave opened in this ground. Now it is a city of the dead.” Then pointing to the grave of his daughter, “There lies the most perfect being I ever knew.”
Though Mr. Seward went to Auburn to escape from the pressure of public cares, his large sense of hospitality often led him to invite favorite members of the diplomatic corps to his summer home; and it was a great event for the town when he received there Mr. Burlingame and the Chinese embassy, and entertained them in a style in which republican simplicity was combined with some of the elegance of Oriental hospitality.
Only once did I visit with Mr. Seward his birthplace at Florida, New York, a little town in Orange County, which his birth has hardly rescued from obscurity. The house in which he was born was then standing. It was not like the home of Lincoln or Grant, a log-cabin, but it was a home devoid of all pretension; and the old friends and relatives who recalled the thin, pale, studious schoolboy revealed the humbleness of his early circumstances, and the moral sturdiness of the people among whom he had his origin.
I have dwelt, in these reminiscences, upon Mr. Seward’s personal characteristics rather than upon his public work. One of his distinguishing traits must not be overlooked, his courtesy and gallantry to women. A long and severe sickness which overtook me in Washington in the summer of 1868, furnished a new insight into his character; and it will be altogether to the advantage of the reader if I drop my pen now, as I did then, and let the woman who picked it up describe her own unique experiences.
II. Two Months With Mr. Seward.
Isabel C. Barrows
It was a hot August morning in Washington, and what that means only one who has spent an entire summer in that now beautiful city can understand. It was not then a beautiful city. There were no pavements, except perhaps on Seventh Street. Cows, geese, and pigs by the score wandered at large; the shade trees that now beautify the streets were unplanted, and few fine residences had been erected. The sun beat down in pitiless fury, and clouds of fine dust filled the air. It was an uncomfortable time for the well and a weary time for the sick, and Mr. Seward’s private secretary was that morning taken ill. He insisted that the Secretary of State must be informed without a moment’s delay, and I must carry the message.
“I am sorry for your husband, madam, but I am also sorry for myself, for I have never had such an accumulation of work since the war,” said Mr. Seward.
“Perhaps I can find some one to take his place,” I mildly suggested.
“I do not want any one else. The advantage to me of your husband and his predecessor, Mr. McEwen, is that they bring head as well as hand to their work.”
Seeing that he was really disappointed, and knowing that none of the clerks in the Department could write short-hand, my sympathy got the better of my judgment, and I incautiously said, “If I only knew a little more of stenography, I would gladly do my husband’s work till he is better,” not dreaming that it was to be a serious illness.
“Oh, do you also write shorthand?” returned Mr. Seward eagerly.
“Only a little,” I made haste to reply, trying to beat a hasty retreat from the possibility of being asked to give evidence of my ignorance.
“Well, go right up in the library, and we will see how we get on together.”
In vain I urged that I was only beginning the study, that I had never taken a dictation in my life, that I had left my husband ill in bed, that he had not for a moment throught of my remaining, etc. To the first he said that a trial would show whether I was capable; to the last that he would telegraph at once to my husband not to expect me till I came. Then I was shown to a little alcove in the library at the head of a private staircase which led to his room, provided with note-book and pencils, and told to wait till I should hear the “little bell.”
It was not long before the tinkle of the famous bell summoned me below, but the call was obeyed with laggard step. Surely this was an ordeal for one who had simply picked up the rudiments of an art which it requires long drudgery to attain.
“Be seated, madam,” said the Secretary, pointing to a comfortable chair with a footstool, which I was sure my husband had never needed. “To the minister at St. Petersburg,” etc., and then followed a long diplomatic dispatch, full of technical terms, referring to matters of which I had but the dimmest knowledge, names of Russians, instructions for procedure in such and such cases, with corrections and erasures, one after another, in accordance with the frequent “Strike that out, madam,” till the whole was a sea of intermixed shorthand and longhand that would have made an expert smile—or swear. Secretly I was asking myself whether I should ever be able to unravel the tangle in the secluded quiet of my alcove, when the suave voice of the Secretary settled the question by saying, “That is all at present. You may now read to me what you have just written.”
That sudden power of speech was given to Balaam’s ass was not more wonderful than that by some hocus-pocus of magic or inspiration I was able to read off, without break or stumble, the long and involved dispatch which Mr. Seward had dictated. Doubtless it was in part a trick of memory stimulated by the unwonted occasion. But it sealed my fate for the next two months, — months which, for their mingled pleasure, anxiety, and suffering, have never been matched in a not uneventful life.
“That will do perfectly, madam. You may act as my private secretary till your husband’s return.”
And so I did. If, at the end of that time, a feeling of pride was born s the disbursing agent paid over the full amount of salary for the full amount of work, — work that had often to be carried home and finished at midnight, — surely that pride may be condoned.
Apart from the thought of the home anxiety during that trying time, the remembrance of the insight into the life and character of a man like William H. Seward is unalloyed pleasure. Thrown, through the exigencies of a busy life, into contact with many of the distinguished men of that and later times in Washington, none of them ever impressed me as being more kindly, more genuine, more democratic. Mr. Garfield alone, for whom I did much similar work, could approach him in these respects in my estimation. Mr. Seward’s kindness began with the first day’s work. At three o’clock he rang his bell, and when I appeared, note-book in hand, he simply told me that his coupé would take me home. Every day through all the hot August weather, he either sent me home in his carriage or took me when he went himself; sometimes to his own house first, to get some dainty for my sick husband. On cabinet days, when he was likely to be gone an hour or more, he always bade me go out for exercise; and if he chanced to over-take me, as he came back, would pick me up, and tell me as much of cabinet affairs as it was proper for him to divulge. When my husband was able to go out, he sent his barouche that he might go to drive, and a man to carry him down-stairs and up again; and though it was an unusually busy day, he considerately said to me, “Jump into the office carriage, drive home, and go out with your husband; it will double his pleasure to have you there.”
A simple noon luncheon of bread and meat, with chocolate or coffee, was usually served to Mr. Seward in an adjoining room, to which he always invited me; but I seldom accepted unless he would otherwise have been alone, as he had a dread of solitude ever after the time of the assassination. On such occasions he was as genial and delightful as if he had been entertaining the English minister. I remember one day his telling about the purchase of Alaska, which had recently been effected, and his saying that I should probably live long enough to have the value of Alaska appreciated, though he never should. He added that if he had not become weary of the discussion which the purchase had excited, he should have advised the further acquirement of Greenland and some other territory. Another time he told me about a trip which he had taken the previous day with President Johnson. He thought the President was an unhappy and lonely man. To cheer him up, Mr. Seward had taken his own carriage and servant and a hamper of luncheon, and he and the President had driven quietly a long distance into the country, and had spent a Sunday afternoon together, away from all the cares and pomp of state. “I think it did the poor man good,” said Mr. Seward.
It was a time of wars and rumors of wars. There were revolutions in South America, excited times in Japan, trouble in Russia, and complications in Brazil which became serious through the attitude of the American minister. One day Mr. Seward overtook me on my way from a flying visit to my home, as he was returning from a cabinet meeting. He signaled to me to wait, and took me into his coupé. As soon as I was seated he said, “Well, I hope I have to-day warded off a war with Brazil.” He then went on to describe the heated cabinet meeting and the opinions of certain of the members. Then he laughed, and said, “But they say one must never tell a woman secrets, and here I am telling you state secrets!” But his lightness of tone seemed to imply that he had not much to fear from the revelation.
Often in dictating private letters he would say, “It seems to me it would be more interesting for you to know what you are writing about,” and he would hand me the personal letters to himself that came from ministers abroad, who wrote of life behind the scenes in royal courts; or sometimes it would be delightful correspondence from distinguished persons in this country, with many of whom he kept up a very close intimacy. The letters which he wrote in reply were a pleasant contrast to the more formal diplomatic correspondence. I recall one day especially, when he had a very troublesome dispatch to send to Japan, one that he dictated several times before it was worded to his satisfaction. A more nervous man would have been fretted and tired by it, for it involved heavy responsibility. But no sooner had he dictated the usual formal close to the dispatch than he went on, as though it were all one subject, “My dear Nellie, — Who has been daring to kill my little Nellie’s chickens?” and then followed a charming letter to his grandchild. I smiled as I followed his voice with my pencil. “You smile, madam,” he said. “You wonder how I can go from serious things to light. But it was not a light thing to the little girl to lose her pets. Then, again, it is the power of habit. When I first assumed this position, I could not sleep nights for the sense of responsibility. Now I have learned that it is better to do my best, and then sleep. It is easier to bear responsibility when one has slept well.”
This very change in correspondence tended also to lessen the mental strain, for strain it was to the end. His work never became mere formal routine. I wish, as a proof of this, that I could recall his opinions and the interest he expressed when there once came up a question of trouble between missionaries and some Eastern nation. He had a sympathetic heart beneath his undemonstrative exterior. He was not himself especially witty, but he had a keen sense of wit in others, and had a large fund of anecdote. I can still hear his little chuckle of amusement as he recalled an incident in his early days, during one of the presidential campaigns. I think it must have been after the war with Mexico, but I am not sure. Any way, “Peace” was one of the watch-words, and it was used on banners and on transparencies, and wherever it could be brought in. An illiterate little tailor in the same town with Mr. Seward, not wishing to be outdone in the way of display, had made a brilliant transparency for his shop window, and called Mr. Seward in to witness the lighting of it. It was put in place, the light set behind it, and they stepped out on the sidewalk to see the effect, where, in glowing letters of light, were the words, “Pease and plenty.”
One day, after I had taken notes for several hours, so many that I must transcribe most of them at home to have the work ready for the engrossing clerks the next morning, I was summoned downstairs by the musical tinkle of the little hell. Mr. Seward knew that my notebook was full, and he was such a reasonable and compassionate man that it seemed to me something unusual must have occurred if I were to be asked to do more. But no one hesitated when the summons came from the Secretary’s room. In a moment I stood before him, equipped for writing.
“Sit down, madam.” I sat down, and watched his face, round which a pleasant smile was playing. He took up a pair of scissors from the desk, and cut a strip from the margin of a dispatch that was lying before him. Then he took his pen, which he could only use with pain and weariness, and wrote the date and his own name upon it. Turning toward me, he handed me the scrap of paper, saying, “Here is a little fly from the city of the great philosophers. Keep it. Long after I am gone, that little fly will remind you not only of Athens, but of the time that you helped me here.” It lies before me now, the time-yellowed strip of paper, with the green, gauzy wings of the insect which had been unconsciously folded within the dispatch, and the words, “Athens, August 8, 1868, William H. Seward,” still distinct, as he said, “long after he is gone.” To say that its weight in gold would not purchase this trifle would be a light estimate to put upon it.
It was a constant surprise to see how respectful the Secretary was to suggestions from others. He was never over-bearing nor arrogant to those with whom he was in daily association. It is not the place of a clerk to call in question the work of his superior, and such questioning would rarely be borne with good grace by great men. But as an evidence of his sincere modesty, let me recall an incident that occurred after I had been some time in the office and was more conversant with the work, and had learned to read a little between the diplomatic lines. Interesting negotiations were going on with reference to a canal across the Isthmus of Panama. Diplomacy had an opportunity for wearing its softest velvet gloves. Every step seemed to be taken with a cat-like tread. After the coming and going of various representatives and a great deal of discussion, much of which Mr. Seward related to me as we were drinking chocolate together during a frightful thunder-storm, he began an important dispatch on the subject. He worded it very carefully, but at the close of the first version came the command, “Cross that all out, madam.” This was repeated I know not how many times. I think no other dispatch, while I was there, was re-dictated so often. At length he was satisfied, and I returned to my alcove to transcribe it. When I came to a certain passage, I was morally sure that the words did not say what he meant them to imply. I tripped down the stairs, tapped at his door, and was admitted. I read the notes aloud slowly and asked if they were right. “Yes, madam, that is quite right.” A little chagrined, I went back to my desk. The more I studied the passage, the more convinced I was that it wholly misrepresented the Secretary’s meaning. I plucked up courage and went down again, this time having transcribed the sentence, which was rather involved. I laid it before the Secretary, and asked him to read it himself. He glanced hastily through it, and said, “Why, yes, that is right; of course it is.” My humiliation increased, and I slunk up the stairs like one caught in a meddling plot. But when I began to write again, my common sense would not let me go on. I knew it was wrong. I re-wrote the entire dispatch in long-hand, went downstairs, asked for audience with Mr. Seward, and, overwhelmed with blushes and apologetic feelings, asked the privilege of telling him where I thought the dispatch was wrong. “Certainly,” was the gracious response. I read it as it was written.
“Now what would you have me say instead?” he asked.
With my heart in my mouth, lest after all I might be wrong, I told him what I supposed the meaning ought to be, but that the involution of the sentence made it read just the contrary. He paused a moment, and wrinkled his brow in thought. “You are right, madam,” he cried, and instantly changed the entire passage, and re-dictated it, so that there was no possibility of a misunderstanding. I was about to retire, when he called me back, and frankly said, “Let me thank you; and if in addition it is any satisfaction to you to know it, let me tell you that you are the first woman in the United States to know of these proceedings, and you may have the further satisfaction of knowing that you have saved the Secretary of State from a serious mistake.” A less modest man would have held his peace; a less honest one would have laid the blame on the amanuensis; a less approachable man would have frozen any attempt on the part of a subordinate to set him right in a verbal error.
My memory of Mr. Seward at his office is much more cheerful than of him in his home. The shadow left by the death of a beloved wife and daughter seemed to linger in the house, while the ever-present sentinel, pacing back and forth before the door, though suggesting security from rough-handed invasion, yet gave an oppressive air to the place. Within it was quiet and solemn, the only noisy members of the family being a number of rare foreign birds which, from their great cage in the bay-window, used to scream with delight when Mr. Seward came home at night. I have watched him feed them and talk to them with as much gentleness and interest as any woman could have done. So far as I remember, these were his only pets. At public receptions, of course everything was brilliant and attractive to the world at large; but though these were as agreeable as such gatherings usually are, we felt that we lost our Mr. Seward then. He belonged to the world, and seemed much farther off than in the retirement of the office, with the neighboring city sleeping in the quiet of sultry summer heat.
It was so warm during the time I was employed with him at the Department that every one who could get away had fled northward or to the cool depths of Virginian forests, and we had few interruptions in our work from outsiders. It went on smoothly and swiftly, unbroken save when Mr. Seward himself paused for a few moments’ rest and chat. My husband was eventually able to be sent to the country, — a mere skeleton in frame, but with new life and hope beating in veins and heart. Of course I was detained at his post, for, as it was the summer vacation, not a substitute was to be found in the city. Phonographers were not so numerous then as they are now. But there came a day when I was summoned to Delaware by the severe illness of a sister. The telegram followed me to the Department of State. I laid it before Mr. Seward. The look of distress on his face was genuine. He was sorry for me in my sorrow, sorry that he must act as a master, and not as a friend. He could not be left without an amanuensis.
“I will try once more to find some one to take my place,” I said.
Again and again I had tried, but in vain. When the Secretary was at cabinet meeting, that day, I went down town, and fortunately found a young man who understood shorthand, who was willing to come and relieve me for a month. He met me at the Department, and I introduced him to Mr. Seward, who forthwith dictated a letter to him and sent him to a desk to write it out. I flew to my alcove, put my papers to rights, and made ready to leave by the night train for Wilmington. While busy about this I was called to the Secretary’s room. “Madam,” said Mr. Seward, “I will send for the young man and dictate another letter to him, and I wish you to stay here to see how we get on.” The messenger was told to call the new amanuensis. He came in as though he had peas in his shoes. He sat down, and Mr. Seward began to dictate and the young man to write. I could see that his hand trembled, and that he did not cross out the words when Mr. Seward changed the form of sentences. It was not a long letter. When the “yours truly” was reached, Mr. Seward in the kindest tones said, “Please read to me what you have written.” The youth began. He tried a dozen times, Mr. Seward patiently helping him, suggesting what the word which he could not decipher might be, and in no way showing impatience or disgust. The tyro went to another room to transcribe his notes. Mr. Seward turned to me, as I sat there with grief tugging at my heart, and said very quietly, “Well, madam, how do you think we get on?”
“Oh, Mr. Seward,” I cried, “he will never do! I will stay; only give me plenty of work to do. Do not let me have one moment to think.”
In the most sympathetic terms, Mr. Seward deplored the necessity which compelled him to accept my services under the circumstances, but it was plainly my duty to stick to my post, since my sister needed my presence only, not my care. After it was decided that I should stay, Mr. Seward’s thoughts reverted to “the poor young man,” as he called him. “It seems,” said he, “almost unfair to turn him off with such a slight trial. What shall we do with him?”
“I brought him, and I will dismiss him,” I said.
I had no bowels of compassion for such incompetency, especially when it stood so painfully in my way. But it was evident that the Secretary could not bear to hurt his feelings. I hunted him up, told him that Mr. Seward was not quite satisfied, and that he might go. Instead of being overwhelmed with reproaches, I was met by beaming smiles, and never have I seen so good a personification of the way Christian must have looked when his burden fell off at the wicket-gate.
Mr. Seward heeded my request. I was so busy for the entire day that I had not a moment in which to ask myself what were the chances for life and death in that neighboring State. It was only at night, when I had to find my way to my lonely home, that I realized how much I was sacrificing for the sake of filling my husband’s post. I felt almost like a prisoner of state.
The next day one of the congressional reporters returned from his vacation, and, learning that I had been seeking him, called at the State Department, and sent in a note saying that he was at liberty to serve Mr. Seward. Mr. Seward read the note, and asked, “Shall we try him, madam?” “Oh, yes,” I begged. The dispatch which was dictated to him was of course mere play to the expert. Mr. Seward’s face shone. “Now, madam, I am happy to say you may go to your sister. Take the coupé, and drive right to the station.” I looked up at the clock; it was on the stroke of twelve. “The train is just leaving the depot. There will be no other until Monday morning,” was my mournful reply. That day, however, closed my duties as private secretary to the Secretary of State, and I think it is the only time that the office has been even temporarily filled by a woman.
After Mr. Seward had made his journey round the world, and had nearly finished his history of that remarkable experience, I was again summoned to him when he was living in Auburn. This time it was not the tinkle of the little bell, whose tones are still so pleasant to memory, but a telegram, saying that he would like my assistance in going over the book and finishing its preparation for the press. The message was long in reaching me, as I chanced to be in Quebec when it was sent, and it was not forwarded. The delay led him to feel that it was impossible to find me, and some one else was engaged. Not knowing this, when the message finally found me, I hurried on to Auburn. The cordial greeting that I received from the poor sick man, the warm assurance that his first choice as an assistant was “that little woman,” as he told me they used to call me at the Department, was ample satisfaction for the journey. That was my last sight of the honored man. He was at his summer home by the side of one of the peaceful New York lakes. We spent a delightful day with him, and left at eventide. He was sitting on the piazza, faithful friends round him, a fair picture spread before him. His head and heart were unchanged, but the poor limbs were all stricken, and the devoted servant-man who for so many years had ministered to him was like a mother to him then. He could not take our hands, nor even nod his head: but when we turned for one more good-by look, he was still smiling, and so I ever picture him.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.