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Chapter 19: the Tribune continues.

  • The special Express system
  • -- night adventures of Enoch Ward -- gig Express -- ex press from Halifax -- Baulked by the snow-drifts -- party warfare then -- books published by Greeley and McElrath -- course of the Tribune -- the editor travels -- scenes in Washington -- an incident of travel -- Clay and Frelinghuysen -- the exertions of Horace Greeley -- results of the defeat -- the Tribune and Slavery -- burning of the Tribune building -- the editor's reflections upon the fire.

What gunpowder, improved fire-arms, and drilling have done for war, the railroad and telegraph have done for the daily press, namely, reduced success to an affair of calculation and expenditure. Twelve years ago, there was a chance for the display of individual enterprise, daring, prowess, in procuring news, and, above all, in being the first to announce it; which was, is, and ever will be, the point of competition with daily papers. Those were the days of the Special Expresses, which appear to have been run, regardless of expense, horseflesh, and safety, and in the running of which incredible things were achieved. Not reporters alone were then sent to remote places to report an expected speech. The reporters were accompanied, sometimes, by a rider, sometimes by a corps of printers with fonts of type, who set up the speech on the special steamboat as fast as the reporters could write it out, and had it ready for the press before the steamboat reached the city. Wonderful things were done by special express in those days; for the competition between the rival papers was intense beyond description.

Take these six paragraphs from the Tribune as the sufficient and striking record of a state of things long past away. They need no explanation or connecting remark. Perhaps they will astonish the young reader rather:

The Governor's Message reached Wall street last evening, at nine. The contract was for three riders and ten relays of horses, and the Express was to start at 12 o'clock, M., and reach this city at 10 in the evening. It is not [241] known here whether the arrangements at the other end of the route were strictly adhered to; but if they were, and the Express started at the hour agreed upon, it came through in nine hours, making but a fraction less than eighteen miles an hour, which seems almost incredible. It is not impossible that it started somewhat before the time agreed upon, and quite likely that extra riders and horses were employed; but be that as it may, the dispatch is almost—if not quite—unparalleled in this country.

Our express, (Mr. Enoch Ward,) with returns of the Connecticut Election, left New Haven Monday evening, in a light sulky, at twenty-five minutes before ten o'clock, having been detained thirty-five minutes by the non-arrival of the Express locomotive from Hartford. He reached Stamford—forty miles from New Haven—in three hours. Here it commenced snowing, and the night was so exceedingly dark that he could not travel without much risk. He kept on, however, with commendable zeal, determined not to be conquered by any ordinary obstacles. Just this side of New Rochelle, and while descending a hill, he had the misfortune to run upon a horse which was apparantly standing still in the road. The horse was mounted by a man who must have been asleep; otherwise he would have got out of the way. The breast of the horse came in contact with the sulky between the wheel and the shaft. The effect of the concussion was to break the wheel of the sulky by wrenching out nearly all the spokes. The night was so dark that nothing whatever could be seen, and it is not known whether the horse and the stranger received any material injury. Mr. Ward then took the harness from his horse, mounted him without a saddle, and came on to this city, a distance of seventeen miles, arriving at five o'clock on Tuesday morning.

It will be recollected that a great ado was made upon the receipt in this city of the Acadia's news by two of our journals, inasmuch as no other paper received the advices, one of them placarding the streets with announcements that the news was received by special and exclusive express. Now, the facts are these: The Acadia arrived at Boston at half-past 3 o'clock, the cars leaving at four; in coming to her wharf she struck her bow against the dock and immediately reversed her wheels, put out again into the bay, and did not reach her berth until past four. But two persons, belonging to the offices of the Atlas and Times, jumped on board at the moment the ship struck the wharf, obtained their packages, and threw them into the water, whence they were taken and put into a gig and taken to the depot. “Thus,” said the Commercial, from which we gather the facts stated above “the gig was the ‘Special Express,’ and its tremendous run was from Long Wharf to the depot—about one mile!”

The news by the next steamer is looked for with intense interest, and in [242] older to place it before our readers at an early moment, we made arrangements some weeks since to start a horse Express from Halifax across Nova Scotia to the Bay of Fundy, there to meet a powerful steamer which will convey our Agent and Messenger to Portland. At the latter place we run a Locomotive Express to Boston, whence we express it by steam and horsepower to New York. Should no unforeseen accident occur, we will be enabled by this Express to publish the news in New York some ten, or perhaps fifteen or twenty hours before the arrival of the steamer in Boston. The extent of this enterprise may in part be judged of by the fact, that we pay no less than Eighteen Hundred Dollars for the single trip of the steamer on the Bay of Fundy! It is but fair to add that, in this Express, we were joined from the commencement by the Sun of this city, and the North American of Philadelphia; and the Journal of Commerce has also since united with us in the enterprise.

We were beaten with the news yesterday morning, owing to circumstances which no human energy could overcome. In spite of the great snow-storm, which covered Nova Scotia with drifts several feet high, impeding and often overturning our express-sleigh—in defiance of hard ice in the Bay of Fundy and this side, often 18 inches thick, through which our steamboat had to plow her way—we brought the news through to Boston in thirty-one hours from Halifax, several hours ahead of the Cambria herself. Thence it ought to have reached this city by 6 o'clock yesterday morning, in ample season to have gone south in the regular mail train. It was delayed, however, by unforeseen and unavoidable disasters, and only reached New Haven after it should have been in this city. From New Haven it was brought hither in four hours and a half by our ever-trusty rider, Enoch Ward, who never lets the grass grow to the heels of his horses. He came in a little after 11 o'clock, but the rival express had got in over two hours earlier, having made the shortest run from Boston on record.

The Portland Bulletin has been unintentionally led into the gross error of believing the audacious fabrication that Bennett's express came through to this city in seven hours and five minutes from Boston, beating ours five or six hours! That express left Boston at 11 P. M. of Wednesday, and arrived here 20 minutes past 9 on Thursday—actual time on the road, over ten hours. The Bulletin further says that our express was sixteen hours on the road. No such thing. We lost some fifteen minutes at the ferry on the east side of Boston. Then a very short time (instead of an hour and a half, as is reported by the express) in finding our agent in Boston; then an hour in firing up an engine and getting away from Boston, where all should have been ready for us, but was not. The locomotive was over two hours in making the run to Worcester—42 miles—though the Herald runner who came through on the arrival of the Cambria [243] some time after, was carried over it in about half the time, with not one-fourth the delay we encountered at the depot in Boston. (We could guess how all this was brought about, but it would answer no purpose now.) At Worcester, Mr. Twitchell (whom our agent on this end had only been able to find on Tuesday, having been kept two days on the route to Boston by a storm, and then finding Mr. T. absent in New Hampshire) was found in bed, but got up and put off, intending to ride but one stage. At its end, however, he found the rider he had hired sick, and had to come along himself. At one stopping-place he found his horse amiss, and had to buy one before he could proceed. When he reached Hartford (toward morning) there was no engine fired up, no one ready, and another hour was lost there. At New Haven our rider was asleep, and much time was lost in finding him and getting off. Thus we lost in delays which we could not foresee or prevent over three hours this side of Boston ferry,—the Cambria having arrived two or three days earlier than she was expected, before our arrangements could be perfected, and on the only night of the week that the rival express could have beaten even our bad time, —the Long Island Railroad being obstructed with snow both before and afterward. The Herald express came in at 20 minutes past 9; our express was here at 15 minutes past 12, or less than three hours afterward. Such are the facts. The express for the U. S. Gazette crossed the ferry to Jersey City at 10 1/2 instead of 11 1/2, as we mis-stated recently.

That will do for the curiosities of the Special Express. Another feature has vanished from the press of this country, since those paragraphs were written. The leading journals are no longer party journals. There are no parties; and this fact has changed the look, and tone, and manner of newspapers in a remarkable degree. As a curiosity of old-fashioned party politics, and as an illustration of the element in which and with which our hero was compelled occasionally to labor, I am tempted to insert here a few paragraphs of one of his day-of-the-election articles. Think of the Tribune of to-day, and judge of the various progress it and the country have made, since an article like the following could have seemed at home in its columns.

The wards are awake!

Old First! Steady and true! A split on men has aroused her to bring out her whole force, which will tell nobly on the Mayor. Friends! fight out your Collector, split fairly, like men, and be good friends as ever at sunset to-day; but be sure not to throw away your Assistant Alderman. We set you down 600 for Robert Smith. [244]

Saucy Second! Never a Loco has a look here! Our friends are united, and have done their work, though making no noise about it. We count on 400 for Smith.

Gallant Third! You are wanted for the full amount! Things are altogether too sleepy here. Why won't somebody run stump, or get up a volunteer ticket? We see that the Loco-Foco Collector has Whig ballots printed with his name on them! This ought to arouse all the friends of the clean Whig Ticket. Come out, Whigs of the Third! and pile up 700 majority for Robert Smith! One less is unworthy of you; and you can give more if you try. But let it go at 700.


Bloody Sixth! We won't tell all we hope from this ward, but we know Ald. Crolius is popular, as is Owen W. Brennan, our Collector, and we feel quite sure of their election. We know that yesterday the Locos were afraid Shaler would decline, as they said his friends would vote for Crolius rather than Emmons, who is rather too well known. We concede 300 majority to Morris, but our friends can reduce it to 200 if they work right.


Empire Eighth! shall your faithful Gedney be defeated? Has he not deserved better at your hands? And sweet, too, he was foully cheated out of his election last year by Loco-Foco fire companies brought in from the Fifteenth, and prisoners imported from Blackwell's Island. Eighteen of them in one house! You owe it to your candiates to elect them—you owe it still more to yourselves—and yet your Collector quarrel makes us doubt a little. Whigs of the Eighth! resolve to carry your Alderman and you will! Any how, Robert Smith will have a majority—we'll state it moderately at 200.


Blooming Twelfth! The Country Ward is steadily improving, politically as well as physically. The Whigs run their popular Alderman of last year; the Locos have made a most unpopular Ticket, which was only forced down the throats of many by virtue of the bludgeon. Heads were cracked like walnuts the night the ticket was agreed to. We say 50 for Smith, and the clean Whig ticket.


Whigs of New York! The day is yours if you will! But if you skulk to your chimney corners and let such a man as Robert Smith be beaten by Robert H. Morris, you will deserve to be cheated, plundered and trampled on as you have been. But, No! You will not! On for Smith and victory!

We now turn over, with necessary rapidity, the pages of the third and fourth volumes of the Tribune, pausing, here and there, when something of interest respecting its editor catches our eye. [245]

Greeley and McElrath, we observe, are engaged, somewhat extensively, in the business of publishing books. The Whig almanac appears every year, and sells from fifteen to twenty thousand copies. It contains statistics without end, and much literature of what may be called the Franklin School—short, practical articles on agriculture, economy, and morals. “Travels on the Prairies,” Ellsworth's “Agricultural Geology,” “Lardner's lectures,” “Life and speeches of Henry Clay,” “Tracts on the Tariff” by Horace Greeley, The farmers' library, are among the works published by Greeley and McElrath in the years 1843 and 1844. The business was not profitable, I believe, and gradually the firm relinquished all their publications, except only the Tribune and Almanac. September 1st, 1843, the Evening Tribune began; the Semi-Weekly, May 17th, 1845.

Carlyle's Past and Present, one of the three or four Great Books of the present generation, was published in May 1843, from a private copy, entrusted to the charge of Mr. R. W. Emerson. The Tribune saw its merit, and gave the book a cordial welcome. ‘This is a great book, a noble book,’ it said, in a second notice, ‘and we take blame to ourself for having rashly asserted, before we had read it thoroughly, that the author, keen-sighted at discovering Social evils and tremendous in depicting them, was yet blind as to their appropriate remedies. He does see and indicate those remedies—not entirely and in detail, but in spirit and in substance very clearly and forcibly. There has no new work of equal practical value with this been put forth by any writer of eminence within the century. Although specially addressed to and treating of the People of England, its thoughts are of immense value and general application here, and we hope many thousand copies of the work will instantly be put into circulation.’

Later in the year the Tribune introduced to the people of the United States, the system of Water-Cure, copying largely from European journals, and dilating in many editorial articles on the manifold and unsuspected virtues of cold water. The Erie Railroad—that gigantic enterprise—had then and afterwards a powerful friend and advocate in the Tribune. In behalf of the unemployed poor, the Tribune spoke wisely, feelingly, and often. To the new Native American Party it gave no quarter. For Irish Repeal, it fought like a tiger. For protection and Clay, it could not say enough. Upon [246] farmers it urged the duty and policy of high farming. To the strong unemployed young men of cities, it said repeatedly and in various terms, “Go forth into the Fields and Labor with your Hands.”

In the autumn, Mr. Greeley made a tour of four weeks in the Far West, and wrote letters to the Tribune descriptive and suggestive. In December, he spent a few days in Washington, and gave a sorry account of the state of things in that “magnificent mistake.”

‘To a new comer,’ he wrote,

the Capitol wears an imposing appearance: Nay, more. Let him view it for the first time by daylight, with the flag of the Union floating proudly above it, (indicating that Congress is in session,) and, if he be an American, I defy him to repress a swelling of the heart—a glow of enthusiastic feeling. Under these free-flowing Stripes and Stars the Representatives of the Nation are assembled in Council—under the emblem of the National Sovereignty is in action the collective energy and embodiment of that Sovereignty. Proud recollections of beneficent and glorious events come thronging thickly upon him—of the Declaration of Independence, the struggles of the Revolution, and the far more glorious peaceful advances of the eagles of Freedom from the Alleghanies to the Falls of St. Anthony and the banks of the Osage. An involuntary cheer rushes from his heart to his lips, and he hastens at once to the Halls of Legislation to witness and listen to the displays of patriotic foresight, wisdom and eloquence, there evolved.

But here his raptures are chilled instanter. Entering the Capitol, he finds its passage a series of blind, gloomy, and crooked labyrinths, through which a stranger threads his devious way with difficulty, and not at all without inquiry and direction, to the door of the Senate or House. Here he is met, as everywhere through the edifice, by swarms of superserviceable underlings, numerous as the frogs of Egypt, eager to manifest their official zeal and usefulness by keeping him out or kicking him out again. He retires disgusted, and again threads the bewildering maze to the gallery, where (if of the House) he can only look down on the noisy Bedlam in action below him—somebody speaking and nobody listening, but a buzz of conversation, the trotting of boys, the walking about of members, the writing and folding of letters, calls to order, cries of question, calls for Yeas and Nays, &c., give him large opportunities for headache, meagre ones for edification. Half an hour will usually cure him of all passion for listening to debates in the House. There are, of course, occasions when it is a privilege to be here, but I speak of the general scene and impression.

To-day, but more especially yesterday, a deplorable spectacle has been presented here—a glaring exemplification of the terrible growth and diffusion of office-begging. The Loco-Foco House has ordered a clean sweep of all its underlings—door-keepers, porters, messengers, wood-carriers, &c., & c. I care [247] nothing for this, so far as the turned-out are concerned—let them earn a living, like other folks—but the swarms of aspirants that invaded every avenue and hall of the Capitol, making doubly hideous the dissonance of its hundred echoes, were dreadful to contemplate. Here were hundreds of young boys, from twenty down to twelve years of age, deep in the agonies of this debasing game, ear-wigging and button-holding, talking of the services of their fathers or brothers to “ the party,” and getting members to intercede for them with the appointing power. The new door-keeper was in distraction, and had to hide behind the Speaker's chair, where he could not be hunted except by proxy.


The situation of the lowest post of clerks in the departments and other subordinate office-holders here is deplorable. No matter what are their respective salaries, the great mass of them are always behind-hand and getting more so. When one is dismissed from office, he has no resource, and no ability to wait for any, and considers himself, not unnaturally, a ruined man. He usually begs to be reinstated, and his wife writes or goes to the President or Secretary to cry him back into place with an “ower-true tale” of a father without hope and children without bread; if repulsed, their prospect is dreary indeed. Where office is the sole resource, and its retention dependent on another's interest or caprice, there is no slave so pitiable as the officer.

Of course, where every man's livelihood is dependent on a game of chance and intrigue, outright gambling is frightfully prevalent. This city is full of it in every shape, from the flaunting lottery-office on every corner to the secret card-room in every dark recess. Many who come here for office lose their last cent in these dens, and have to borrow the means of getting away. Such is Washington.

One incident of travel, and we turn to the next volume. It occurred on “a Sound steamboat” in the year of our Lord, 1843:

Two cleanly, well-behaved black men, who had just finished a two years term of service to their country on a ship-of-war, were returning from Boston to their homes in this city. They presented their tickets, showing that they had paid full passage through at Boston, and requested berths. But there was no place provided for blacks on the boat; they could not be admitted to the common cabin, and the clerk informed them that they must walk the deck all night, returning them seventy-five cents of their passage-money. We saw the captain, and remonstrated on their behalf, and were convinced that the fault was not his. There was no space on the boat for a room specially for blacks (which would probably cost $20 for every $1 it yielded, as it would rarely be required, and he could not put whites into it); he had tried to make such a room, but could find no place; and he but a few days before gave [248] a berth in the cabin to a decent, cleanly colored man, when the other passengers appointed a committee to wait on him, and tell him that would not answer—so he had to turn out the “nigger” to pace the deck through the night, count the slow hours, and reflect on the glorious privilege of living in a land of liberty, where Slavery and tyranny are demolished, and all men are free and equal!

Such occurrences as this might make one ashamed of Human Nature. We do not believe there is a steamboat in the South where a negro passing a night upon it would not have found a place to sleep.

The year 1844 was the year of Clay and Frelinghuysen, Polk and Dallas, the year of Nativism and the Philadelphia riots, the year of delirious hope and deep despair, the year that finished one era of politics and began another, the year of Margaret Fuller and the burning of the Tribune office, the year when Horace Greeley showed his friends how hard a man can work, how little he can sleep, and yet live. The Tribune began its fourth volume on the tenth of April, enlarged one-third in size, with new type, and a modest flourish of trumpets. It returned thanks to the public for the liberal support which had been extended to it from the beginning of its career. ‘Our gratitude,’ said the editor, ‘is the deeper from our knowledge that many of the views expressed through our columns are unacceptable to a large proportion of our readers. We know especially that our advocacy of measures intended to meliorate the social condition of the toiling millions (not the purpose, but the means), our ardent sympathy with the people of Ireland in their protracted, arduous, peaceful struggle to recover some portion of the common rights of man, and our opposition to the legal extinction of human life, are severally or collectively regarded with extreme aversion by many of our steadfast patrons, whose liberality and confidence is gratefully appreciated.’ To the Whig party, of which it was ‘not an organ, but an humble advocate,’ its ‘obligations were many and profound.’ The Tribune, in fact, had become the leading Whig paper of the country.

Horace Greeley had long set his heart upon the election of Henry Clay to the presidency; and for some special reasons besides the general one of his belief that the policy identified with the name of Henry Clay was the true policy of the government. Henry Clay was one of the heroes of his boyhood's admiration. Yet, in 1840 [249] believing that Clay could not be elected, he had used his influence to promote the nomination of Gen. Harrison. Then came the death of the president, the “apostasy” of Tyler, and his pitiful attempts to secure a re-election. The annexation of Texas loomed up in the distance, and the repeal of the tariff of 1842. For these and other reasons, Horace Greeley was inflamed with a desire to behold once more the triumph of his party, and to see the long career of the eminent Kentuckian crowned with its suitable, its coveted reward. For this he labored as few men have ever labored for any but personal objects. He attended the convention at Baltimore that nominated the Whig candidates—one of the largest (and quite the most excited) political assemblages that ever were gathered in this country. During the summer, he addressed political meetings three, four, five, six times a week. He travelled far and wide, advising, speaking, and in every way urging on the cause. He wrote, on an average, four columns a day for the Tribune. He answered, on an average, twenty letters a day. He wrote to such an extent that his right arm broke out into biles, and, at one time, there were twenty between the wrist and the elbow. He lived, at that time, four miles and a half from the office, and many a hot night he protracted his labors till the last omnibus had gone, and he was obliged to trudge wearily home, after sixteen hours of incessant and intense exertion. The whigs were very confident. They were sure of victory. But Horace Greeley knew the country better. If every Whig had worked as he worked, how different had been the result! how different the subsequent history of the country I how different its future! We had had no annexation of Texas, no Mexican war, no tinkering of the tariff to keep the nation provincially dependent on Europe, no Fugitive Slave Law, no Pierce, no Douglas, no Nebraska I

The day before the election, the Tribune had a paragraph which shows how excited and how anxious its editor was: ‘Give to-morrow,’ he said, ‘entirely to your country. Grudge her not a moment of the daylight. Let not a store or shop be opened—nobody can want to trade or work till the contest is decided. It needs every man of us, and our utmost exertions, to save the city, the State, and the Union. A tremendous responsibility rests upon us —an electrifying victory or calamitous defeat awaits us. Two days only are before us. Action! Action!’ On the morning of the decisive [250] day, he said, ‘Don't mind the rain. It may be bad weather, but nothing to what the election of Polk would bring upon us. Let no Whig be deterred by rain from doing his whole duty! Who values his coat more than his country?’

All in vain. The returns came in slowly to what they now do. The result of a presidential election is now known in New York within a few hours of the closing of the polls. But then it was three days before the whigs certainly knew that Harry of the West had been beaten by Polk of Tennessee, before Americans knew that their voice in the election of president was not the controlling one.

‘Each morning,’ said the Tribune, a few days after the result was known, ‘convincing proofs present themselves of the horrid Effects of Loco-focoism, in the election of Mr. Polk. Yesterday it was a countermanding of orders for $8000 worth of stoves; to-day the Pittsburg Gazette says, that two Scotch gentlemen who arrived in that city last June, with a capital of £ 12,000, which they wished to invest in building a large factory for the manufacture of woolen fabrics, left for Scotland, when they learnt that the Anti-Tariff champion was elected. They will return to the rough hills of Scotland, build a factory, and pour their goods into this country when Polk and his break-down party shall consummate their political iniquity. These are the small first-fruits of Polk's election, the younglings of the flock,—mere hints of the confusion and difficulties which will rush down in an overwhelming flood, after the Polk machine gets well in motion.’

The election of Polk and Dallas changed the tone of the Tribune on one important subject. Until the threatened annexation of Texas, which the result of this election made a certainty, the Tribune had meddled little with the question of slavery. To the silliness of slavery as an institution, to its infinite absurdity and impolicy, to the marvelous stupidity of the South in clinging to it with such pertinacity, Horace Greeley had always been keenly alive. But he had rather deprecated the agitation of the subject at the North, as tending to the needless irritation of the southern mind, as more likely to rivet than to unloose the shackles of the slave. It was not till slavery became aggressive, it was not till the machinery of politics was moved but with the single purpose of adding slave States to the Union, slave members to Congress, that the Tribune [251] assumed an attitude of hostility to the South, and its pet Blunder. To a southerner who wrote about this time, inquiring what right the North had to intermeddle with slavery, the Tribune replied, that ‘when we find the Union on the brink of a most unjust, and rapacious war, instigated wholly (as is officially proclaimed) by a determination to uphold and fortify Slavery, then we do not see how it can longer be rationally disputed that the North has much, very much, to do with Slavery. If we may be drawn in to fight for it, it would be hard indeed that we should not be allowed to talk of it.’ Thenceforth, the Tribune fought the aggressions of the slave power, inch by inch.

The Tribune continued on its way, triumphant in spite of the loss of the election, till the morning of Feb. 5th, 1845, when it had the common New York experience of being burnt out. It shall tell its own story of the catastrophe:

At 4 o'clock, yesterday morning, a boy in our employment entered our publication office, as usual, and kindled a fire in the stove for the day, after which he returned to the mailing-room below, and resumed folding newspapers. Half an hour afterward a clerk, who slept on the counter of the publication office, was awoke by a sensation of heat, and found the room in flames. He escaped with a slight scorching. A hasty effort was made by two or three persons to extinguish the fire by casting water upon it, but the fierce wind then blowing rushed in as the doors were opened, and drove the flames through the building with inconceivable rapidity. Mr. Graham and our clerk, Robert M. Streby, were sleeping in the second story, until awakened by the roar of the flames, their room being full of smoke and fire. The door and stairway being on fire, they escaped with only their night-clothes, by jumping from a rear window, each losing a gold watch, and Mr. Graham nearly $500 in cash, which was in his pocket-book under his pillow. Robert was somewhat cut in the face, on striking the ground, but not seriously. In our printing-office, fifth story, two compositors were at work making up the Weekly Tribune for the press, and had barely time to escape before the stairway was in flames. In the basement our pressmen were at work on the Daily Tribune of the morning, and had printed about three-fourths of the edition. The balance of course went with everything else, including a supply of paper, and the Weekly Tribune, printed on one side. A few books were hastily caught up and saved, but nothing else—not even the daily form, on which the pressmen were working. So complete a destruction of a daily newspaper office was never known. From the editorial rooms, not a paper was saved; and, besides all the editor's own [252] manuscripts, correspondence, and collection of valuable books, some manuscripts belonging to friends, of great value to them, are gone.

Our loss, so far as money can replace it, is about $18,000, of which $10,000 was covered by insurance. The loss of property which insurance would not cover, we feel more keenly. If our mail-books come out whole from our Salamander safe, now buried among the burning ruins, we shall be gratefully content.

It is usual on such occasions to ask, “Why were you not fully insured? ” It was impossible, from the nature of our business, that we should be so; and no man could have imagined that such an establishment, in which men were constantly at work night and day, could be wholly consumed by fire. There has not been another night, since the building was put up, when it could have been burned down, even if deliberately fired for that purpose. But when this fire broke out, under a strong gale and snow-storm of twenty-four hours continuance, which bad rendered the streets impassable, it was well-nigh impossible to drag an engine at all. Some of them could not be got out of their houses; others were dragged a few rods and then given up of necessity; and those which reached the fire found the nearest hydrant frozen up, and only to be opened with an axe. Meantime, the whole building was in a blaze.

The mail books were saved in the “ roasted Herring.” The proprietors of the morning papers, even those most inimical, editorially, to the Tribune, placed their superfluous materials at its disposal. An office was hired temporarily. Type was borrowed and bought. All hands worked “with a will.” The paper appeared the next morning at the usual hour, and the number was one of the best of that volume. In three months, the office was rebuilt on improved plans, and provided with every facility then known for the issue of a daily paper. These were Mr. Greeley's “ Reflections over the Fire,” published a few days after its occurrence:

We have been called, editorially, to scissor out a great many fires, both small and great, and have done so with cool philosophy, not reflecting how much to some one man the little paragraph would most assuredly mean. The late complete and summary burning up of our office, licked up clean as it was by the red flames, in a few hours, has taught us a lesson on this head. Aside from all pecuniary loss, how great is the suffering produced by a fire! A hundred little articles of no use to any one save the owner, things that people would look at day after day, and see nothing in, that we ourselves have contemplated with cool indifference, now that they are irrevocably destroyed, come up in the shape of reminiscences, and seem as if they had been worth their weight in gold. [253]

We would not indulge in unnecessary sentiment, but even the old desk at which we sat, the ponderous inkstand, the familiar faces of files of Correspondence, the choice collection of pamphlets, the unfinished essay, the charts by which we steered—can they all have vanished, never more to be seen? Truly your fire makes clean work, and is, of all executive officers, super-eminent. Perhaps that last choice batch of letters may be somewhere on file; we are almost tempted to cry, “Devil! Find it up!” Poh! it is a mere cinder now; some

Fathoms deep my letter lies;
Of its lines is tinder made.

No Arabian tale can cradle a wilder fiction, or show better how altogether illusory life is. Those solid walls of brick, those five decent stories, those steep and difficult stairs, the swinging doors, the Sanctum, scene of many a deep political drama, of many a pathetic tale, utterly whiffed out, as one summarily snuffs out a spermaceti on retiring for the night. And all perfectly true.

One always has some private satisfaction in his own particular misery. Consider what a night it was that burnt us out, that we were conquered by the elements, went up in flames heroically on the wildest, windiest, stormiest night these dozen years, not by any fault of human enterprise, but fairly conquered by stress of weather;—there was a great flourish of trumpets at all events.

And consider, above all, that Salamander safe; how, after all, the fire, assisted by the elements, only came off second best, not being able to reduce that safe into ashes. That is the streak of sunshine through the dun wreaths of smoke, the combat of human ingenuity against the desperate encounter of the seething heat. But those boots, and Webster's Dictionary—well! we were handsomely whipped there, we acknowledge.

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