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Chapter 20: Congressman and Governor.

  • Living in a tent on the beach, he is elected to Congress
  • -- takes part in financial questions -- greenbacks are money, and hence good enough for bondholders -- congressional election: running against R. H. Dana, Jr. -- sample stump speeches -- E. Rockwood Hoar and Harvard College -- trying to Impeach President Johnson -- presenting the case -- did Johnson know of Booth's plans: a private investigation -- Crittenden's challenge and Butler's answer -- greenbacks declared legal tender by Supreme Court -- proposition for an interchangeable bond -- plea for governmental system of terminal Annuities -- position on reconstruction -- United States should have had Canada for the Alabama claims -- “you shall never be Governor of Massachusetts ” -- “I will be Governor of Massachusetts ” -- and he becomes Governor -- that council -- Tewksbury -- the Fast-day proclamation -- Appointees -- Harvard College -- running for President in 1884 -- Cleveland's election fraudulent

In 1863 I provided myself with a piece of land on Cape Ann, on the northeast coast of Massachusetts, for a summer home for myself and family. I pitched my tent on the southerly side of it next to Ipswich Bay, a beautiful and picturesque piece of water, where the sunsets are equal to those of the Bay of Naples. With my two boys and their tutor I established myself in this tent on the beach as a seashore home. We all neglected that residence somewhat in 1864, but then we were occupying a tent with the Army of the James in Virginia. In the summer of 1865 we were on Cape Ann again, where we spent a very delightful season in sailing and fishing, and the full enjoyment of a free life. This residence was about forty miles from my home at Lowell, and outside of the congressional district in which that city is situated. When autumn came we struck the tent, and afterwards I spent the winter at Washington before the courts there. In 1866 we returned to our tent, and in fishing and fowling spent another summer delightfully. That fall came the election for representatives to Congress.

I had no wish or desire to antagonize the sitting member from the Lowell district, the Hon. George S. Boutwell, in his re-election. But the Hon. John B. Alley, who then represented the district where my tent was, familiarly known in Massachusetts as the Essex district, informed me that he did not desire to be a candidate again, and asked me if I would like to succeed him. Reflecting upon the matter, and feeling a little curiosity to know whether I could be elected in a district where I was only a carpet-bagger, I said I would try it.

The convention was called, and without any special effort I was nominated. There was a large Republican majority in that district, [920] so that, in spite of the carpet-bagism, I was elected to Congress while I lived in the tent on the beach. Appeal was made to the executive that the certificate of my election should be withheld. because I was not a resident of that district. That, I answered, was nobody's business but the electors', and upon that question nobody could decide but the House of Representatives. More than that, there was no constitutional inhibition upon any citizen of the State being elected to Congress to represent any part of the State. So I got my certificate in due form, and entered Congress in 1867.

The Hon. Schuyler Colfax was elected speaker of the House. I was put upon the committee on appropriations, and devoted myself to the duties of that committee with great diligence during the Congress. I also gave attention to the current business of the House, receiving perhaps more attention from the House than is usually accorded to a new member.

My attention was very early called to two great matters: First, whether the bonds of the United States should be paid in gold and silver in preference to the other debts of the United States. Second, what were the legal tender notes of the United States; were they constitutional currency, money, or were they only promises to pay?

I early took the proposition that there was no difference between the legal tender notes of the United States and gold and silver as money. The proposition of the bondholders that their debts against the United States were more sacred than any other, and that they should be paid in specie while the pensions and other just debts of the United States were not to be so paid, I combatted and resisted. But there were more bondholders in Congress than a majority of each House, and they naturally had their way.

I urged that the greenbacks were constitutional currency of the United States, and therefore the lawful money of the United States. Upon this question controversy arose, and it was discussed in Congress and the newspapers in the bitterest manner. The legal tender notes were called “rag-baby currency” ; it was said that no honest man could stand by it as money; that they were forced loans, broken promises to pay; and that banknotes should be substituted for them, in other words, that the promise of a national bank to pay a given sum was better than the promise of the United States, when all that made a national banknote worth a dollar was, that it was endorsed [921] by the United States to be redeemed in legal tender notes. It was claimed that the only authority for issuing such notes was the war power under the Constitution, and that all that were issued during times of peace were simply valueless and would be so held by the Supreme Court. The contest about the currency lasted during my whole congressional life.

Immediately there came a division in my congressional district upon these questions. I proclaimed myself there and everywhere a greenbacker, and that term was applied to me everywhere as the last term of ignominy. The banking interests organized a split in the Republican party. The Democrats had quite a following there, and it was thought better to have a Democrat elected by withdrawing the Republican votes from myself than to have so pestilent a greenbacker represent that solid old Republican district in Congress.

Therefore, Mr. Richard H. Dana, Jr., a gentleman of very respectable talents indeed and of considerable learning, and one who prided himself on his ancestry, was procured to run against me. He was supplied with money for the purposes of an electioneering campaign, and used it with great liberality. We canvassed the district, but not together, but we answered each other's speeches on alternate nights to different audiences. The people gathered around me; the bondholders gathered around him. It was evident that if he could not get the people away from me his votes would be scarce. He himself claimed to be of the aristocratic class in Massachusetts, and he attempted in his speeches to put himself on a level with the common people for the purpose of getting their votes, and his efforts afforded me infinite amusement as I replied to him.

He went among the workingmen of Lynn, who are almost all shoemakers, and showed how well he knew the manner in which people liked to be approached by those who seek their votes. He undertook to answer a charge made against him of being an aristocrat and wearing white gloves and holding himself apart and above the people. He laid himself out in the speech in which he did this, and it was the most amusing one I ever read. He said in substance:--

Fellow-citizens, I am accused of being an aristocrat. It is said that I wear white gloves. Well, I shall have to plead guilty to that last charge. I do wear white gloves for the purposes of society. You are told that I go about dressed in a very expensive, cleanly manner. I assure you, fellow-citizens, [922] that when I was a young man, and was a sailor before the mast on the coast of California, it became a part of my labors to carry rawhides down the banks to the sea, and wash them, and put them on board the vessel, and I had to put them in a pit to do so, and when I was washing them and stamping out the filth, I assure you, fellow-citizens, I was as dirty as any of you. But how does my opponent live? If you will come down to my cottage at Manchester-by-the-Sea and visit me, I will take you in my one-horse wagon and drive you around the town and show you our beaches, which are a very pleasant sight, my friends; but as we are riding along over our seashore roads we will hear a noise behind us and turning around see a carriage with two or four horses driven at full speed and with perhaps out-riders on horseback, and it will come dashing by us covering us with dust, and in that carriage will be my opponent.

The next evening, before another audience, it came my turn. I said something like this:--

My neighbors and friends! My opponent last night in defending himself from the accusation of being an aristocrat, admitted to you among other things that he wore gloves for the purposes of society. Now, I want to say to you that I wear gloves as well as my opponent, but I wear them to keep my hands warm, and I advise you to do the same. As to the averment that it is necessary to be dirty in order to get to be your equal, I assure you I shall not have to get into a manure pit to be fit to associate with you, but simply be a respectable, well-clad, decent American citizen, who knows that one man who behaves well and does his duty to his country and his family is as good as another. As to horses, fellow-citizens, when I came down here into this district from Lowell, where I used to live, I brought my horses with me, and I thought I had a good span; but when I got among you I found that my constituents had better horses, and I proposed to get as good a pair as I could, and I have got a good pair, and if you will come down and ride with me I assure you we won't take anybody's dust.

I instance this as some of the amenities of the stump speaking of the campaign.

Mr. Dana was beaten out of sight. When the next elections came I supposed the contest would be given up. At least, I was so assured by the Republican State Committee, and as the Republican National Committee wanted my services in Indiana, and promised to [923]

Views at General Butler's home at Lowell. Library.

[924] [925] take care of my district, I spent many weeks in the Western States. I spoke on the platform there and made a great many personal friends whether I made any Republican votes or not. But I returned only to find that in the meantime my district had been stolen away from me. This was in the year 1874, the off congressional year. It was the year of the first congressional election after the inauguration of the President, and according to the almost universal law the administration was beaten, and there was an opposition majority in the House, many of the congressional districts having changed from the Republican to the Democratic party.

My friends were very much more chagrined than myself. They gathered around me and said they would see that I was nominated and elected from that district the next time beyond all dispute. “No, gentlemen,” said I, “I am very much obliged to you for all you have done for me, but I would not represent this district again if I could have every vote cast in my favor. I have made your district of some consequence in the Congress of the United States, and I now propose to let it take care of itself. But I am going to be a candidate for the next Congress from the district where I have always lived, man and boy, to see whether they will take me after my apparent desertion here.”

At the proper time the canvass was opened, and I was regularly nominated in the Republican convention by a fairly counted majority of votes. Whereupon up started the Hon. Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar, who had been an office-holder nearly all his life, and wanted to be the rest of his life by getting Grant to appoint him as associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, while he was attorney-general, but whose confirmation for reasons affected by public policy and private wishes I had caused to be rejected by the Senate. Mr. Hoar thought this election would be a good time to revenge himself upon me. There was a very popular Democratic friend of mine running against me, who had every clement to draw to him the strength of his party. So

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