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Chapter 2: early political action and military training.

  • Courtship and marriage
  • -- Weds Miss Sarah Hildreth, of Dracut -- their four children -- why the youngest was sent to West Point -- a War every generation -- the Butler “coat of arms ” -- Mrs. Butler during the Rebellion -- political course: governing principle and belief -- early campaign for shorter hours in Lowell mills -- hostility of manufacturers -- rise of the Democratic Free-soil Coalition -- State election of 1851 -- “whoever votes the Ben. Butler ten-hour ticket will be discharged ” -- Lowell in a ferment -- famous public address -- “you have your right arms and your torches ” -- Vilifications of the press -- elected to the legislature in 1852 -- attempting to right a wrong -- story of the burning of the Convent of St. Ursula, in Charlestown -- objection to “Australian” secret ballot -- how Sumner was chosen Senator -- constitutional convention of 1853, and rise of the know-nothing party -- anti-catholic legislation -- military training -- from private to Brigadier-General of State militia

In chronological order it might, perhaps, have been well to record here what there has been of interest during my legal career. For I have been engaged in the practice of law with unabated devotion substantially to the hour of writing, save for some fifteen years, more or less, which were devoted to the public service.

Upon reflection, however, it seems best that I should pass over for the present my legal experiences before as well as after my public services. These two periods include that portion of my life for whose pursuits I have had the greatest fondness, and I shall describe them in a continuous narrative later on.

In the year 1839 I made the acquaintance of Fisher Ames Hildreth, the only son of Dr. Israel Hildreth, of Dracut, a town adjoining Lowell on the north side of Merrimack River. That acquaintance ripened into an affectionate friendship which terminated only with his death thirty years afterwards.

Dr. Hildreth had a family of seven children, six of them being daughters. The eldest, Rowena, was married in 1836 at a very early age to Mr. Henry Read, a merchant of Lowell. The two youngest children were then merely schoolgirls. Fisher invited me to the family gathering at the Thanksgiving feast of that year, and there I first met Sarah, the second daughter. I was very much impressed with her personal endowments, literary attainments, and brilliancy of mind. Dr. Hildreth was an exceedingly scholarly and literary man. He was a great admirer of the English poets, especially of Byron, Burns, and Shakespeare, and had early taught the great poet's plays to his daughter, who, in consequence, developed a strong desire to go upon the stage. Her father approving of this, she appeared [79]

Mrs. Sarah Butler in 1839. engraved from a Daguerreotype.

with brilliant success at the Tremont Theatre in Boston and the Park Theatre in New York, her talents for delineation of character being fully acknowledged by all. She was taught her profession by Mrs. Vernon, very accomplished tragedienne. Mrs.Vernon was assisted by Isaac C. Pray, Esq., himself a writer of plays, and it was in the leading part in one of Mr. Pray's dramas that Miss Hildreth first appeared upon the stage. When our acquaintance began I had never seen her on the stage, her home life being sufficient to attract me. She declined to leave her profession, however, until I had “won my spurs” in my own profession, and had become provided with the means of making a home for both. But a most cordial and affectionate intimacy was maintained between us. In the spring of 1843, I visited her at Cincinnati, Ohio, where she had been welcomed and honored as a star. There we became engaged. We were married on the 16th of May, 1844, at St. Anne's Church in Lowell, by the Rev. Dr. Edson, its Rector.

We made our home at Lowell from that time until her very sad and untimely death in 1877. There were born to us four children: Paul, the eldest, who died in April, 1850, at the age of four years and ten months; a daughter, Blanche, born in 1847, and a son, Paul, born in 1852, both still living; and a son, Ben Israel, born in 1854, who departed this life on the first day of September, 1881, the day he was to have gone into partnership with me in the practice of the law in Boston.

Benj. F. Butler in 1839. engraved from a Daguerreotype.


Ben Israel was appointed to West Point when I was in Congress. I had already made three appointments, two of the young men failing to complete the course, and one, a colored lad, not being allowed to enter. The young cadet graduated with honor, and was directed by his father to accept a lieutenantcy in a regiment of colored troops which was stationed on the Plains, that he might have, in addition to his instruction at the academy, the knowledge of the movement and care of troops in actual service. In this onerous work of defending the scattered population on our frontier from Indian raids, he served one year.

The reason for this selection was that I believed then, as I believe now, that this country is to have a war in each generation. Every preceding generation in this country had had its war, and in the most important of all his father had taken an active part. The colonies had, in 1758, the French and Indian War, the result of which was the taking of Quebec by Wolfe, and the destruction of the power of France on this continent. Zephaniah, my grandfather, was a soldier under Wolfe's command. There hangs before me, in my library, a powder-horn, such as was worn by every soldier of that day. On it is engraved with his own knife, “Zephaniah Butler his horn April ye 22, 1758.” And Captain Zephaniah fought with Stark at Bennington.

Then followed the Revolution, from 1775 to 1783, and one of my uncles was at Bunker Hill. The next generation saw the war of 1812 with Great Britain. In this war, my father, John Butler, commanded a company of light dragoons in the regular army. Next, in 1830, were the Spanish wars in Florida and the Gulf States, wherein General Taylor and General Jackson--then captains — so distinguished themselves. Next came the unpleasantness of 1861 to 1865, which, I think, in spite of the euphemism, might well be termed a war of our generation, and with which, it may be seen hereafter, I had somewhat to do.

Therefore, believing that there could be no war in which a son of mine especially would not take a part in his generation, I had him educated at West Point, so that his efforts for his country might not be thwarted by the officers of the regular army because he was not of their nobility, and I required him to go into the field for a year, so that he might get some instruction as a volunteer. [81]

My family had no coat of arms, and I have been taunted with the fact by my political foes, some of whom pride themselves upon an ancestry which won distinction by amassing wealth from the sale of codfish and New England rum,--with which, in early colonial times, Africa was supposed to be Christianized. At such times I have been tempted to reply, since I had before me the swords of four generations, each actually worn in the military service of the country, “'Tis true my family has no coat of arms, but we have the arms.”

I planned that my son should become my partner in the profession of the law. I had seen that nearly all the generals in the I War of the Rebellion who had been at West Point and had achieved success, had quitted the profession of arms at an early age, and I was desirous of giving my boy, who had been a soldier, every chance as a civilian. He studied his profession at the Columbia Law School in New York, and, after two years, was admitted to practice upon examination before the term of study , was closed. I had hoped to lean upon him in my declining years, to take my place in that profession which I love and honor. “Man proposes, but God disposes.”

Swords of four generations in glass case, at home of Gen. Butler at Lowell.

My daughter married Major-General Adelbert Ames, who made his mark during the War of the Rebellion and in the reconstruction of the country, so that I have no need here to remark upon his history. They have six children. The eldest, Butler Ames, is now a student at West Point. So, God willing, one of the race will be in the next war to do honor to the blood of his father and the race of his mother.

My son, Paul, chose business pursuits after he was graduated at Harvard. I sent him to Harvard, not because I deemed it the best [82] school in the country, but because I could not foretell what might be his future, and I chose that he should not be hindered, as his father had been, by the fact that he was not a graduate of Harvard. A class of Massachusetts people believe that a course at that college is indispensable to advancement in almost any pursuit in life, especially political; and, as soon as a graduate obtains political preferment he is hailed as the “scholar in politics.”

My wife, with a devotion quite unparalleled, gave me her support by accompanying me, at my earnest wish, in every expedition in the War of the Rebellion, and made for me a home wherever I was stationed in command. She joined me at Annapolis and accompanied me to Fortress Monroe when I was assigned there in May, 1861. She went with me on the expedition to Ship Island for the attack upon New Orleans, wherein I was exposed to the greatest peril of my life; and only when my ship was hourly expected to go to pieces, and when I importunately appealed to her good sense that our children must not be bereft of both parents, did she leave me to seek safety on board a gunboat. But of that more hereafter.

She suffered great privations and hardships on the sands of Ship Island while we were awaiting the attack on New Orleans, and was on the first vessel containing troops that went up the river after the surrender of Forts Jackson and St. Philip. She went ashore with me and lodged at the St. Charles Hotel on the night after I took possession of the city of New Orleans. When in 1863 I was assigned to the command of the Department of Virginia and North Carolina, she accompanied me again to Fort Monroe. In 1864 she went with me to the field, and was present with me during most of the campaign of 1864.

Thus I had an advantage over most of my brother commanding generals in the department and in the field, in having an adviser, faithful and true, clear-headed, conscientious and conservative, whose conclusions could always be trusted. In the mere military movements, although she took full note, she never interfered by suggestion, for in regard to them I relied upon the opinions of my valued, accomplished, and efficient staff officers. In other matters all that she agreed to was right and for the best; and if there is anything in my administration of affairs that may be questioned, it is that in which I followed the bent of my own opinions. [83] [84] [85]

Returning home with me, after I retired to civil and political life, Mrs. Butler remained the same good adviser, educating and guiding her children during their young lives with such skill and success that neither of them ever did an act which caused me serious sorrow, or gave me the least anxiety on their behalf. She made my home and family as happy as we could be. She took her place in society when at Washington, and maintained it with such grace, dignity, and loveliness of character that no one ever said an unkind or a disparaging word of her.

From my earliest vote I became deeply interested in politics. By politics I do not mean such questions only as how far the Virginia resolutions of ‘98 should be the guide of the future of this country, leaving its frame of government virtually a conglomeration of States by no means indissolubly bound together, each of which should conduct for itself every substantial function of government, as independent sovereignties united only for purposes of common defence in war and insurrection, having a general government with so little power of interference in any matter that affected the prosperity of the whole country, except the postal service and the least degree possible of judicial control of legal questions by the Supreme Court, that as Jefferson proposed, the general government should be what he wished it named, “The Department of Foreign Affairs of the United States;” or whether the doctrines of Hamilton should obtain, whose sagacity foresaw that the United States must, after it passed the period of its earliest youth, grow into a nation wherein the national authority could override and supersede all the powers of the States except so far as their domestic concerns were involved, into which theory and practice of government we are fast and inevitably drifting. The politics in which I very early took part was that practical politics which dealt with the condition and welfare of the citizen.

From my earliest youth I had been taught to believe in democracy, of which Jefferson was the apostle, and to abhor federalism, of which Hamilton was the exponent. While I had been dazzled with the brilliancy of Jackson's administration of national affairs, I early had sense enough to see that it conflicted, in a very considerable degree, with the teachings of Jefferson.

I may as well state here as anywhere the conclusions to which I have been brought by a lifetime of the closest study and [86] with national and State affairs and practical politics. This country is to continue certainly for years in accordance with the theories of Hamilton, whose great genius and clear reasoning formulated a system of government; while the philosophical lucubrations of Jefferson are the best instructions as to the mutual relations of its citizens in all conditions of life.

In a word, the government of Hamilton, clothed with every necessary power and inhibited only from oppressing either the masses or the individual, should protect the rights and carry out the equality under the law of each and every citizen of the republic, if either should be limited or injuriously or fraudulently interfered with either by the permission or by the enactment of the governments of the States. Therefore I declare my political convictions to be these:--As to the powers and duties of the government of the United States, I am a Hamiltonian Federalist. As to the rights and privileges of the citizen, I am a Jeffersonian Democrat. I hold that the full and only end of government is to care for the people in their rights and liberties, and that they have the right and privilege to call on either the State, or the United States, or both, to protect them in equality of powers, equality of rights, equality of privileges, and equality of burdens under the law, by carefully and energetically enforced provisions of equal laws justly applicable to every citizen.

I have deemed it my duty to myself and to my readers to state these, my conclusions, for they have tinged if not permeated every public aim of my life, and every private aim also, I hope.

Coming to Lowell at the early age of less than a dozen years, when it was a small manufacturing town, I became a part of the beginning. But the town had grown so marvellously that in 1836 it had become the second city of New England, and the largest city in the country whose business was solely manufacturing. The people, women and children as well as men, were engaged in daily labor in mills whose machinery was driven by what was then the largest improved single water power in the country. This city had also a singular peculiarity regarding the conduct of its operations. All the capital employed, with the exception of the merest trifle, was owned by non-residents.

The management of that capital was in the form of several large corporations, in each of which was a very considerable community of [87]

Mrs Blanche Butler Ames. From a photograph.

[88] [89] stockholders. The business affairs of these productive establishments were carried on precisely alike. The bells of each rang their laborers in and out of the mills; called them to arise in the morning and take their breakfast by candle light, save in the very longest days; rang them to take their supper at half-past 7 in the evening by such light as might be at that hour. An intermission of thirty minutes only was allowed for dinner. By means of carefully adjusted time-pieces all the bells struck as nearly in unison as was possible without the aid of electricity.

Again, no laboring man or woman who had been employed by one corporation could be employed in any other in the city without a pass from the first. Thus the lack of this pass meant no work in Lowell.

These laboring people had been gathered here almost wholly from the several States in New England, with the single exception of some English and Scotch workmen skilled in the making of cotton and woollen goods. Being brought up with them I knew them to be of the best class of citizens — the sons and daughters of farmers in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. No better body of citizens, no purer people, ever came together.

To the credit of the owners of the mills, it is but just to say, humane, philanthropic, and far-sighted economic business regulations were made, and provisions were established that education should be furnished for the children, and the advantages of religious instruction given to all. Measures were also taken to provide for the morals of the operatives, and houses were built in which they might find the comforts of home at the cheapest possible rate. In each house was a matron in charge, and there was a regulation that the inmates should show cause if out later than ten o'clock in the evening. That was the hour at which the door-key was turned, the curfew being rung by all the bells together at nine o'clock.

It will be observed that I have said these regulations were for economic reasons. The great men who founded Lowell knew that good morals were the prime qualification of good working people. Again they knew that the unit of the price of ordinary labor, other things being equal, was what a laborer could barely live upon and support his family. That rule has now become axiomatic: the cheaper a laborer can live, the cheaper he will work. Therefore the provision [90] of the house where board could be had cheaply by the working man and woman, made them contented with the rate of wages.

It is also to the credit of the founders of Lowell and those who have succeeded them even to this day, that provision was made that on a given Saturday in each month, every man, woman, and child should be paid the wages earned the preceding month, in cash, with-out any deduction or diminution. The only exception was that in the earliest years one corporation required thirty cents a month to be deducted for the support of religious worship. So well has this full and regular payment of wages been maintained that a really serious “strike” for higher wages has never occurred in Lowell, and, further, no worker in the corporate mills in Lowell has ever lost by non-payment a dollar of wages earned.

When President Jackson visited Lowell in 1833, all the laboring men and women of the mills turned out to welcome and escort him. Every woman carried a parasol and was dressed in white muslin, with a blue sash, save the women of the Hamilton corporation, who wore black sashes in respect for the memory of their agent [manager], who had just died.

Afterwards, so strong was the feeling of American citizenship, that the several hundred operatives in the weaving rooms of the Hamilton mill struck and left the mill because the company had put into their room an Irish washerwoman to scrub the floor. They were native Americans and would not stand that.

With such people I spent my boyhood and knew them well. I played with and went to school with their children; I became acquainted with the use of tools in the shops, by the permission of the fathers; I learned to reverence and admire women and men without regard to what the one wore and the other possessed. I knew all their wants; knew their sicknesses and the causes thereof; saw the deterioration in their bodily health from year to year as they grew pallid and nervous. I found that the mill life averaged about five years,--not that people lived no longer than five years who worked in the mills, but that as a rule that employment was compelled by necessity rather than by choice, and was quit as soon as the operatives could afford it. The girls came from the country to work in the mills to get a few hundred dollars to remove the mortgage on the home place; the young men came for the same purpose, or to get the means of starting [91] in some other business. Nobody came to Lowell in those days to become a resident operative as a life business.

Fortunately, I became socially intimate with a very able and very accomplished physician of most conservative views in a neighboring town, who had no concern with the mills in Lowell or with their operatives, save when called as a doctor. He explained to me that the hours of labor, thirteen and a half hours a day for six days in the week, were too great a strain on the life-powers of the operatives. There was only thirty minutes intermission in the fourteen hours to get a hurried meal, which could not be readily digested when the laborer was at work. Though for the most part the labor was not heavy, yet, being in connection with the running of machines, it required constant attention, so that whatever time there was the work could not be remitted. While this long day was not immediately destructive, explained the doctor, it certainly permitted the “survival of the fittest” only, and in the end deteriorated the physical strength of the whole population.

Thus instructed and convinced, my first political action was an endeavor to procure from the legislature an enactment making ten hours a day's work in manufacturing employments. I gathered around me a few of like thought, and the struggle began. A more unpopular movement in the opinions of the mill managers and their principal workmen could not have been made. How and why one of the agents, who was my friend, visited me to remonstrate may be adverted to hereafter. The lips of the operatives were closed; for if they said “ten hours” loudly, or if some enemy reported that they attended secretly a ten-hour meeting, their days of working in the mills of Lowell were numbered.

I am not denouncing this action on the part of the managers; it was natural. They thought they were doing right; the stockholders wanted large dividends, and they were having them. The mills were exceedingly profitable. They were the highest class of investment in the State, and their surplus funds devoted to the enlargement of their properties were simply enormous.

The argument of the agents when some few of the more intelligent deigned to argue with me, was this: “How can the mills of Lowell running only ten hours compete with the mills of Rhode Island, Connecticut, and other States, where they run fourteen or fifteen hours?” [92]

That my reply was not a sufficiently practical one is admitted, but I answered: “Let Massachusetts set the example of short hours; her manufacturers are strong enough to do it, and the others will soon be brought in.”

The rejoinder was: “We cannot afford to do that.”

“ Well, then, run ten hours, and run faster, and you will get all the best help even if you pay somewhat reduced wages.”

To this it was said: “We are paying as high wages as our neighbors in the other States, and we have a better class of men and women than they do because of our facilities for living. We cannot run faster.”

They were honest in this belief, but it was a mistake, as time has shown, because now quite all machines are speeded quicker, and in some instances, when a given machine runs slower, the same person attends more machines.

“ But you are using up in your business the health and lives of your operatives, and destroying their constitutions, an injury which they are transmitting to their children.”

“We do not admit that. But even if it were so, our operatives are at liberty to go away whenever they choose. They have the remedy in their own hands if they are being made sick.”

“But their necessities require them to work here, and you have a duty to your fellow-creatures.”

“Yes,” the principal one of them said, “and one duty is to give the people as cheap calico as can be made.” I have heard that same argument since in regard to tariff reform, or free trade, by those who claim superiority in party action because they claim to adapt conscience to politics. But I have never been convinced by it.

The contention went on and I made many speeches at night in many parts of the State whenever I could find time to get away from my law business. Agitation went on. In the legislature, of course, the ten-hour men were beaten. The manufacturing newspapers exhausted their billingsgate upon me. There was no bad name that could be used that was not liberally bestowed; but the leaven of right eventually “leavened the whole lump,” and has finally produced the bread of life for the working-men.

I remained a pronounced and somewhat prominent member of the Democratic party. We ten-hour men introduced ten-hour resolutions [93] into its platforms, and the philanthropic Free-Soil party which began to obtain hold in our State, adopted our ten-hour propositions before it nominated Van Buren in 1848.

In 1849 came the first attempt for a coalition between the Free-Soilers and Democrats. It was for State purposes only, because we were at variance on national issues. The Democratic party held to the doctrine that the Constitution recognized slavery, and that nothing could be done towards its abolition except through an amendment to the Constitution; while the proposition of the Free-Soil party, as enunciated by Mr. William Lloyd Garrison, one of its leaders at that time, was that “the Constitution was a covenant with hell and a league with death.”

The State had been under the control of the Whig party for more than thirty years, save that the Democrats had elected Marcus Morton governor in 1839 and 1841, each time by a majority of one vote only, counted, I am proud to say, for the honor of the Whig party and of the State, by opposition returning boards. Reform had become very necessary because of the oppressive anti-labor legislation of the Whig party under the lead of the manufacturers. To bring about this reform a coalition of the Free-Soil and Democratic parties was attempted and partially carried out.

I was very strongly in favor of it because I saw hope of ten-hour legislation; and although a Democrat, I was ready to join with anybody who would ameliorate a quasi slavery in the North where the Constitution did not interfere. Although I stood with the Democracy I did not feel myself obliged by my party relations to go bounding over the graves of my fathers to catch a fugitive slave who was seeking Canada, when it was not made my duty by legal enactment. Fortunately I was not called upon to determine what I should do in that regard when obliged to act under the law.

Owing to the opposition of a small wing of the party, known as “Hunker” Democrats, that coalition was unsuccessful. In 1849 the election showed, however, that it had capabilities of success in the near future if rightly managed. The foundation of these possibilities was that by our Constitution all elections were to be determined by a majority vote. If no candidate for governor obtained a majority, then the legislature elected the governor from one of the four candidates receiving the largest vote. [94]

As to the senators, who were then elected by counties, upon failure of election by a majority, the legislature in convention filled the vacancy by election from the two having the highest number of votes. If a candidate for representative failed of an election on the second Monday of November, such vacancy might be filled by an election in his town to be held on the fourth Monday of November. Thus it will be seen that if the Free-Soilers and Democrats ran separate candidates for each office, their combined vote would be counted against the Whig candidate in every case to prevent his election.

An understanding was arrived at between the leaders of the Free-Soil and Democratic parties, that, in counties where it was possible to elect a senator by joint ballot, both should nominate the same candidate; but where there were not large expectations of such a result, each party should nominate its own candidate.

It will be seen that we had the pro-slavery or “Hunker” Democrats, who were our opponents, somewhat at a disadvantage, for if they ran their candidates for the several offices, their ballots would count against the Whig candidates.

A further understanding between the Coalitionists was effected, that if we should carry out this programme and throw the election of all the State officers into the legislature, and then control the legislature, then the Free-Soilers should have all our joint ballots for a Free-Soil United States Senator for the six-year term; and the Democrats should have all the ballots of the Free-Soilers for the Coalition Democratic candidates. This would give all the officers of the State, and all its power, into the hands of the Coalition Democrats, the United States Senator alone being the share of the Free-Soilers.

It so happened that there were two vacancies in the United States Senate, one for the full term of six years, and the other for the remainder of the term to be made vacant on the fourth of March, 1851. These two senatorial terms were called in political parlance the “long eel” and “short eel,” and the Coalition Democrats, in addition to the State government, claimed the “short eel” and got it.

I made another, a sort of personal coalition, as part of this arrangement, that as Lowell had ten representatives to be elected on one ticket, the ticket should be a joint one, half Free-Soilers and half [95]

Mrs. Sarah Butler. From an oil Painting.

[96] [97]

Democrats, but all pledged ten-hour men. There was some demur to this, but as the ten Lowell votes might become a necessity for carrying out the whole arrangement in the State if there were not more than ten majority in the House, I was enabled to force my ten-hour movement into the coalition.

When these political understandings and arrangements became known, and politicians were aware that they had elements of success, the denunciations of them in the Whig press were terrific. Fear for the success of the scheme upset the ripe judgment and twisted the great legal learning of the Hon. Benjamin R. Curtis, afterwards Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, and one of the ablest and best of its members. Yet from his acquaintance with the Free-Soil coalition in Massachusetts he learned enough of the great principles of liberty and freedom, and of the right to equality of all men, to enable him to give a dissenting opinion in the Dred Scott case, against the whole Court, headed by Chief Justice Taney,--an opinion that will live and render Curtis famous long after those who gave the majority opinion have dropped into oblivion.

Much as I admire that opinion, still, I think it was the second ablest effort of Curtis, the first, in my judgment, being Mr. Curtis' opening argument in defence of Andrew Johnson upon the trial of his impeachment. In that case, when Curtis had finished, although much else was said by many other counsel in behalf of his client, nothing more was said.

Yet that great and good man was so far thrown off his balance by the horrors of the coalition, that he wrote and published an elaborate pamphlet solemnly arguing his opinion that our political understandings and arrangements to gain control of the State by voting for whom we pleased in the manner and form provided by the Constitution, was an indictable conspiracy at common law, and ought to be prosecuted as such. I think he lived to regret that opinion.

If our arrangement was a conspiracy, we not only made it, but carried it out, and seized the government of Massachusetts. This should have been an offence against the United States, as we thereby elected two United States Senators; but Judge Curtis never afterwards instructed the grand jury in the Circuit Court when he sat as judge that an indictment for that great crime ought to be found. [98]

The leaders of the Whig party were very much alarmed. A most exciting canvass was prosecuted with the greatest vigor. Luckily for us the coalition was composed very largely of young men, among them plenty of able and vigorous debaters, full of youth, energy, and strength, such as Burlingame, Banks, Rantoul, and others, who afterwards made themselves famous.

The election came off with very curious results. So far as Lowell was concerned the hope for our success gave courage to the operatives in the mills, for we promised them protection from any unlawful acts against themselves. In consequence nine out of ten of the Lowell candidates for representative, Coalitionists and ten-hour men, were elected by a respectable majority, the tenth man being an Irish gentleman who failed to receive some native American votes. These candidates were elected against the most vigorous opposition, not only of the managers in Lowell, but of the whole Whig party of the State; for upon us, as it afterwards turned out, the politics of the State hinged. The governor and lieutenant-governor were not elected. Less than one third of the senators were elected, but those elected were substantially all of Coalitionist persuasion. There were vacancies for representatives in a large number of towns, and a considerable number had voted not to send any, as a means of avoiding another election to fill the vacancy on the fourth Monday of November. Upon a careful examination of the returns and of the probable number of representatives who would be elected on that day, it was quite apparent that the nine ten-hour representatives from Lowell would give the coalition a majority of the legislature and the State government to the Democracy, because, by their vote in joint legislative convention, the vacancies in the Senate would be filled by Coalitionists, and that would establish such a majority in convention with the House that the governor would be elected, and he would have the appointment of all the principal State officers. Therefore the pressure upon the towns which had failed to elect representatives became very heavy, but in most of those the Coalitionists were able to return blow for blow.

Something must be done to change the result in Lowell. What should it be? A ward clerk had made a return to the Lowell board of aldermen stating that the whole number of votes in that ward was eight thousand. It was, in fact, eight hundred, but he multiplied [99] the eight hundred votes received by each representative by ten, although they were all voted for on the same ticket, and thus made a blunder.

The mayor and board of aldermen were all Whigs, and half of them overseers in the mills. The ward officer offered to amend his return according to the facts. The aldermen refused to receive the amended return, but declared that counting eight thousand votes thrown in Ward Four where there were but eight hundred, destroyed the majority of votes by which the nine representatives were elected. They declared that their election was accordingly void, and ordered a new election of representatives on the fourth Monday. This election, if the Whigs should carry it, would give the State to that party, and destroy the hopes of the ten-hour men.

This decision was reached some five days after the first election, and of course some eight or nine days before the following election. Again the ten-hour men rallied to their standard. The Coalitionists proposed to do all they could to help us.

On Monday preceding the second election a placard was posted just before dinner on the outside gate of the Hamilton corporation, which employed a very large number of men, and where the ten-hour feeling was very pronounced. This placard was substantially in the words following:--


Whoever, employed by this corporation, votes the Ben Butler ten-hour ticket on Monday next, will be discharged,

That evening a meeting of the Democratic and Coalition City Committees was called. Consternation had seized them. They said it was all up with our hopes of carrying the election. Our men would never dare to vote under that notice, so that it was no use to do any more about it. The prevailing opinion was that our only chance would be to have nothing said about this notice. Some of our committee themselves were workmen in the mills. They said they could do nothing more; one or two on other corporations were already marked for discharge, they understood, as soon as the election was over.

One or two were contractors with the corporations for building, and both said it would destroy their business as they would get no [100] more contracts. The general opinion of the members of the committee was that nothing more could be or ought to be done. One contractor who had been elected on our ticket in the first election resigned from the ticket. Only one prominent man, and he was not engaged with the corporations, united with Mr. Hildreth and myself in the opinion that something should be done. I addressed the committee and said: “Very well, then; without instruction from you, I suppose, or without your interfering with what I do, I may do what I please in regard to this election as the leader of the ten-hour men.” Most of them were very glad to be relieved from responsibility, and all said “Yes.” I said : “Very well, then; I will have issued the following hand-bill:

To the working-men of Lowell: The following notice has been put up on the gate of the Hamilton corporation:


Whoever, employed by this corporation, votes the Ben Butler ten-hour ticket on Monday next, will be discharged.

The working-men of Lowell will have a meeting [we had previously engaged the City Hall for a meeting on that evening] at the City Hall on Wednesday evening, at eight o'clock, to hear an address by Col. B. F. Butler upon the subject of this notice, and advice upon the question of what shall be done by the working-men and friends of the ten-hour law in view of this notice, in the coming election.

per order.

No man could be found to sign this call. I said: “Very well; leave it blank; the men will come.” Accordingly everywhere in Lowell that handbill was circulated.

Many applied to me to know what I should advise to be done. I said I should tell the meeting what I should do and what I thought should be done; I had not fully made up my mind, but hoped that the good God would deal with me as He promised to do with His apostles: “In that day and that hour it shall be given ye what ye shall speak.”

To say that the citizens were in a ferment, and especially the working-men, would be a very tame expression.

About half-past 7 in the evening I was called upon by the manager of one of the corporations, who desired to know what [101] course would be. I answered him as I had answered the others. He insisted upon talking with me, and I got away from him just in time, by hurrying, to get to the meeting. I found the hall filled almost to suffocation. The stairs leading to it were crowded, and to get me in my good working friends — I was a lighter weight than now — picked me up and rolled me over their heads to the stand, where I found myself in a somewhat disordered state of apparel. Settling myself as well as I could, I turned to the assembly. It was perfectly quiet, more so than any public meeting I have ever since looked upon. I observed carefully their countenances and was confirmed in my course. I looked around for the leading men of whom we make presidents, vice-presidents, and secretaries, but they were not there. It was evidently my meeting or nobody's.

Casting my eye into a corner of the hall and seeing a clergyman there, an earnest, honest, and pious man, who did not preach in any of the fashionable churches in the city, but who had a large congregation in his own town, I stepped to the desk at the front of the platform, on which there was nobody but myself, and said: “I see the reverend Mr.----present with us,” calling him by name. “As it has been the custom of our fathers in great emergencies and on solemn occasions to call for the Divine grace and protection in what they should do, I take the liberty to ask the reverend gentleman to address the throne of grace.” And bringing my pencil down with a heavy tap on the desk, I called out: “Let every head be uncovered;” and every hat came off. The clergyman with some difficulty reached the platform, and then made a very fervent and impassioned prayer, filled with appropriate appeals to Almighty Providence to guide and assist His children in the hour of their direst need.

When he had concluded his prayer I handed my chair to him and stepped forward. Not a hat was put on. I began very calmly, and in low but distinct tones, substantially the following address, which I believe I shall never forget:--

Our fathers fought the battles of the Revolution, braving the perils of war with the British Empire to establish one very important and essential privilege to this people, viz., the right to govern themselves by electing to their legislatures, by votes cast in an orderly and quiet manner according to the laws, men to represent them and their interests such as they shall deem proper. If under our [102] republican form of government established by our patriot fathers the people of this country, acting under and in accordance with the laws, cannot govern themselves by their votes cast according to their consciences, then the Revolution was a failure. If the working-men can be deprived of their freedom and rights by threats of starvation of themselves and their wives and children, when they act according to the laws and their own judgments, then they had better be slaves indeed, having kind masters, instead of being free men who are only at liberty to do what their task-masters impose upon them, or starve. And this question must be settled here and now.

In obedience to the laws, at the time specified at which it should be done, the working-men of Lowell assembled at their several election places and cast their ballots for ten men whom they wanted to represent their interests pledged to the reduction of the oppressive hours of labor, the length of which is destroying their own health and the health of their wives and children. Their votes were in a majority for nine of their representatives.

That majority is known to all and acknowledged by all. By a stupid blunder, however, a clerk returned eight thousand votes cast where there were but eight hundred voters. The aldermen of the city, taking advantage of that blunder, refused to permit him to amend his return according to the fact, which was never done before by any honest body, and exercised their power to declare the election void; they thus deprive the working-men of Lowell of any representation in the coming legislature, unless they can elect some others on Monday to represent them. On that election depends the whole politics of the State; and therefore the whole power and wealth of corporate influence in the State has been brought to bear upon those weak men, the aldermen, to do us this great wrong.

What have we done? So great wrong and outrage would justify revolution; it would justify us in any proceeding to recover our liberties; for we have done no wrong. We said nothing; we only determined in our own minds that we would go to the polls and vote as we had done before, unless we saw a good reason, or heard arguments sufficient, to change our opinions. The Whig party, which owns the ward clerk and controls these aldermen, has called no meeting to address to us any argument or reason why we should change our minds. But what has it done? One of the corporations where large [103] numbers of workmen are employed, and get small enough wages for good work, has, as the representative of all the corporations, addressed the laboring men of Lowell in these words:


Whoever, employed by this corporation, votes the Ben Butler ten-hour ticket on Monday next, will be discharged.

They do me honor overmuch in calling the ticket my ticket. If they had left that out I should have doubted my right to address this meeting of working-men upon this subject; but thus being called upon to do it, I am here to serve you and to save you from bondage.

You have shown yourselves to be the party of law and order, seeking to do everything according to the law and not otherwise, and now you are told that if you exercise your rights as free men in the manner your Constitution points out, you are not only not to be permitted to enjoy any of the divine blessings which the reverend clergyman has invoked upon your heads, but you are not even to be permitted to suffer in freedom and peace the primeval curse of the Almighty,--“ By the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thy bread.” You gave up God's blessings long ago when you were obliged to work for these tyrants, but you could not see your children starve, and therefore you submitted to the punishment of His curse and asked by the sweat of your face to eat your bread. Now even this is to be taken from you unless you vote as your masters permit you to do, and thereby become their slaves. This is an unlawful threat to use unlawful force upon you, for it takes away your right to govern yourselves according to your consciences. You have only complied with the law; they have resorted to force. They avow an intention to oppress you; you have only shown an intention to assert your rights in a lawful manner.

Up to this time I had spoken in an almost conversational tone, because a whisper would have been heard in that great assembly, so silent it was. I went on:--

“I know the power of these corporations. I know many of the men who have been in charge. They have made a mistake in the appeal to force. When that weapon is tried, they are weak and you are strong. They have their mills and machinery, their bricks and their mortar, and that is the extent of their power.” [104]

And then my voice rang out as it can do on occasion :--

You are stronger than they. You have your right arms and your torches, and by them we will blot out this accursed outrage.

As God lives and I live, by the living Jehovah! if one man is driven from his employment by these men because of his vote, I will lead you to make Lowell what it was twenty-five years ago,--a sheep-pasture and a fishing-place; and I will commence by applying the torch to my own house. Let them come on. As we are not the aggressors, we seek not this awful contest.

The effect was marvellous. A yell broke out like the agonized groan of wild animals when they feel the deadly knife at their throats. Some cried out, “Let us do it now,” and applause broke out all over the hall and continued some time.

I waved my hand for silence, which was given with a hush: I shouted,

Oh, not now; not now! Let us do all things decently and in order. We are men of peace under the law. Perhaps this notice is the act of some unauthorized, superserviceable agent of theirs, some over-zealous underling,--and the heads of the corporations have not ordered it and really don't mean it, although I have heard of no withdrawal of it.

We cannot vote Monday under such a threat. We will vote as free men and not as slaves. We have given them here and now notice of our solemn determination; let them take up the gauntlet we throw down if they dare! We must vote next Monday as free men or we don't vote at all: no election will be held. They shall have Thursday and Friday in which to adopt or repudiate this threat of theirs to the working-men of Lowell.

Let us wait and see what they mean to do, and we will notify them that this meeting stands adjourned to meet here again at eight o'clock on Saturday evening to hear their answer, and then we have the Sabbath before us in which to act, and “ the better the day the better the deed.” Now, let us all go quietly home. Don't do any-thing or say anything that will give our enemies any hold upon us. I know as a lawyer where I stand in saying what I have said, and I desire in this matter that you will carefully follow my advice. If we must come to blows, it must be upon their invitation.

I do not think they will call upon the militia of Lowell to suppress us, for you are the militia and I am its commander. Now, let [105] us adjourn and go home, and come here on Saturday night; and, as that may be the most important meeting of our lives, let us all be here and our friends with us: I don't think we shall see any of our enemies.

At that moment somebody called out: “There was a Whig meeting notified this afternoon to be held here Saturday evening.”

“Very well, we give them notice that the working-men of Lowell want their hall on Saturday evening, and we give them further notice that the windows are wide, and that we don't want to be disturbed in our meeting, and anybody who comes here to disturb us will find out how wide the windows are. Now, unless something further is suggested, this meeting will stand adjourned until Saturday evening at eight o'clock at this place.”

The meeting did adjourn, in a state of most intense excitement that broke out when the people got into the streets. It was not shown by any disorder, but by the most determined expressions of what ought to be done, so that I began to fear that I might not be able to control the storm that I had raised. Knots of men gathered at the corners of the streets all over the city discussing the matter. I spent two or three hours visiting these groups, encouraging and advising them that all would go well if they stood firm and orderly; and so the night passed off in quietness.

This meeting was understood to be wholly my own ten-hour affair. Neither the Democratic party nor the Free-Soil party made any public sanction of what I had done. The corporations were apparently as averse to having my speech published as the Coalition committee were to have notice of threats to turn off working-men known. On the next day the corporation organ came out with a statement repudiating this notice, and declaring that there was no such purpose on the part of the corporations.

To ascertain if the notice was fully and thoroughly repudiated, Mr. Linus Child, who was at the head of the Boot corporation, was waited upon by two members of the city committee, one of whom had been elected to the legislature at the first election. They asked Mr. Child what would be the action of the corporations regarding the men who should vote the ten-hour ticket, and they made oath that he answered them in the following language: “The men who vote the Coalition ten-hour ticket will not be employed by our company.” [106] He further stated that this was the determination of all the corporations in the city. Not a word was said as to discharging anybody for voting. This interview was published broadcast and never denied.

One of the two committee-men referred to was apparently so well satisfied that the influence of the corporations would be potent to carry the election, that he resigned his candidacy for representative. Against my wishes, but in order to emphasize the fact that the issue was on the ten-hour law and must be fought out, I was nominated to fill his place. Of course I was not elected, all the “Hunker” Democrats cutting my name,--and there were about one hundred of them.

The ten-hour meeting which stood adjourned till the Saturday before election was held at City Hall on that day. As the threats to discharge men for voting as they chose had been wholly withdrawn by the managers of the corporations, and as the objectionable notice had been destroyed, ten-hour questions were there discussed only on their merits; and there was no interruption or disturbance.

The Whigs, however, held a meeting on Saturday evening in the train-house at the Merrimac Street station. As a large number of ten-hour men were Irishmen, one William S. Robinson, of Brooklyn, an Irish orator, was hired to address the working-men. He spoke from a platform car standing on the track. That meeting was slightly rebellious. His listeners gathered round the upper end of the car, and, leaning heavily upon it, moved it gently down the track, out of the depot and into the darkness. Although invited, I had declined to attend that meeting.

The election was held. Five Coalitionists and one Whig were elected; and the elections in the other towns of the State gave the Coalitionists a fair working majority in both House and Senate. We in Lowell, however, determined that the stamp of reprobation should be put upon the action of the mayor and aldermen in falsifying the returns, and giving certificates to those members apparently elected at the second election. So, upon the meeting of the legislature, when the representatives elected at the second election had taken their seats, we presented the claims to seats of our list of representatives elected at the first election, and their seats were given to them almost without opposition.

At the next session of the grand jury I had the action of the mayor and aldermen presented, and they were indicted. Upon the [107] trial, however, in the Court of Common Pleas, a Whig judge ruled that what they had done was not an indictable offence, and took the case from the jury.

In such a contest as I have described, the continuity of which I have not cared to break by giving unimportant incidents, it may well be believed that I did not escape unscathed although I came out uninjured. For weeks the opposition newspaper of Lowell said everything of me that could be devised by the vilest and most unprincipled editor who was ever allowed to besmirch with printer's ink the columns of what had been a clean newspaper. As to the contumely heaped upon me, I could give examples, which, if they were not quotations, would hardly be credited. To show the accusations made against me, as well as the character and importance of the contest, I give some extracts from the Lowell Courier. The first was published November 11, 1851, the morning after the first election:--

The entire vote of the city is a tremendous one, being 3,964 for Governor, there being only about fifty who were not at the polls. The Whig vote is increased one hundred and fifty over last year. The Free-Soil vote has fallen off and the Democratic has largely increased. This increase is attributable to the ten-hour ticket, and Boutwell may thank this and nothing else for his increased vote.

This shows that the result of the election depended on the ten-hour ticket. I purposely omit that which cannot be put here, if this book is to be read by decent people, but one specimen may do:--

[Lowell Courier, November 19, 1851.]

Errata: Yesterday the compositors made the Courier say, “By the use of gloves well scented with cologne, or some disinfectant, and a pair of tongues, it may become a duty to handle such a putrid carcass as that labelled B. F. Butler.” Of course for “pair of tongues” read “pair of tongs.”

The next extract will be instructive, as a report of my speech:--

[Lowell Courier, November 19, 1851.]

voters of Lowell, remember

That B. F. Butler has publicly declared that his great object is to depreciate the stock of the corporations in this city; that to do this he is willing to see the city sunk in ruins, and when he has got them [108] depreciated he will find loco foco purchasers enough. Remember these words of the demagogue. He may possibly plead that he was drunk when he made the declaration, but these are the miscreant's words. Mark him.

Again, this was published on the morning of the day of the second election:--

[Lowell Courier, November 20, 1851.]

voters of Lowell, remember

That the infamous arch demagogue, B. F. Butler, has publicly boasted that his object is to break down the corporations, to reduce the value of their stock to twenty-five or thirty cents on the dollar in order that by the depreciation the Democrats might buy it up, employ Democratic agents, and have good Democratic times. Let all who have at heart the welfare of the city and its working-men remember this at the polls.

Other publications I brought to the attention of the same grand jury that indicted the aldermen, and they found indictments against both the publisher and the editor. The publisher was tried before the same Whig judge and convicted, but when the editor came to be tried upon an article reading as follows:--

Ben Butler.

This notorious demagogue and political scoundrel, having swilled three or four extra glasses of liquor, spread himself at whole length in the City Hall last night. . . . The only wonder is that a character so foolish, so grovelling and obscene, can for a moment be admitted into decent society anywhere out of the pale of prostitutes and debauches.

the judge charged the jury that the government was bound to prove beyond a doubt that the article was intended for Benjamin F. Butler. He said: “You must try it upon the evidence before you. It is not sufficient to read the article. If the name that is given to it corresponds, that is sufficient. The article is headed ‘ Ben Butler,’ and this is the only proof I have heard that it applied to Benjamin F. Butler. If this is sufficient by its application to the complainant, the defendant must be found guilty. I am at a loss to see that there is any evidence upon this point to make it sufficient. There is nothing [109] except the article itself to prove to whom it applies. The burden is upon the government and you must not conjecture anything.”

Of course the jury found, after considerable deliberation, a verdict of not guilty, on the ground that the article did not refer to me at all, when everybody in the courthouse knew that it did.

I believe I have one characteristic, and that is of paying my debts. I have fully done so, I think, in this case. This particular judge, while attorney-general under President Grant, got himself nominated to be Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, but I caused him to be rejected by the Senate; and when in 1876 he offered him-self as a candidate for Congress against me, I published an open letter describing him so exactly, both morally and politically, that there could be no doubt of his identity (nor was the description libellous), and I beat him so that all the votes he got would be hardly sufficient for mile-stones in our district.

I am induced to put on record these villanous newspaper attacks upon me, in order to show, by example, to the young and ambitious men who may read this book, that undeserved newspaper abuse, however vile, will never ultimately harm a man who lives an honest, proper, and independent life.

Of course it was impossible to carry through the legislature a bill restricting labor to ten hours instead of fourteen. But great strides were made in favor of the proposition, and after unsuccessful efforts in several succeeding legislatures, a compromise was effected, and it was made the law that eleven and a quarter hours a day should be the limit of a day's work in the manufacturing establishments of Massachusetts; this law was vigorously enforced until a considerable time after the war, and the shortening of time was a very great relief to the toilers.

I had always insisted that as much work could be done in ten hours, even in attending machinery, as in eleven and a quarter. Afterwards, when I came to have a controlling interest in certain manufacturing establishments in Lowell, I put in effect a ten-hour rule, and never allowed a man, woman, or child to work more than ten hours except in time of pressure of business. At such time they were given pay for every extra hour they worked, and it was left wholly optional with them whether they should or should not work the extra hours. [110]

In 1852 I was elected to the legislature. While there I endeavored to remedy a great wrong and outrage which had been done to a Catholic educational institution of the order of St. Ursula. This order was established in 1536, to give relief to the sick, and educate gratuitously female youth, and the merits of its work were so great that it escaped even in Europe the persecutions which there frequently visited monastic institutions.

Quite latterly the object of this mission was confined to the education of female youth, and its convents were established in America as seminaries of learning. In 1820 such an institution was founded in Boston, and six years later was removed to Mount Benedict, a twin

Ruins of Ursuline Convent, at Charlestown, Mass. From an old-time sketch.

hill with Bunker Hill in Charlestown. Mount Benedict was a beautiful eminence, with a varied and most delightful prospect reaching miles on every side, and it was surrounded by a community supposed to be as intelligent and orderly as any people.

The pupils of these Ursuline sisters came for the most part from the higher and wealthier Protestant families of the State. The academy flourished for several years, and at the time of its destruction its inmates numbered about ten nuns and forty-seven young lady pupils of tender years.

Among the illiterate and prejudiced adherents of some of the religious sects, there were circulated concerning the institution stories [111] so vile and absurd as not to be credited for a moment by any intelligent person. The pupils and their parents knew these stories to be utterly false and unfounded.

A young woman who had sought admission to the convent as a matter of charity, ran away, while passing through her novitiate, saying to her friends that the labors were too hard and the religious observances too exacting, and that therefore she had concluded to leave. At first she said nothing against any of the inmates of the establishment, and spoke only of their strict discipline as religious teachers. She was immediately surrounded by sympathizers, and, as the body of her listeners grew in numbers, her stories increased in denunciation of the institution. At last she was induced by some clergymen to publish a brochure, called “Six months in a Convent.”

The superior of the school unwisely permitted herself to reply to it. That evoked a rejoinder filled with the vilest and uncleanest of accusations: It purported to be written by the young woman, under the sobriquet of “Maria Monk.” This pamphlet, for it was little more than that, had a large circulation among a certain class of people in that vicinity.

On the flats below Mount Benedict, and not far from it, there were extensive brickyards where large numbers of men, mainly from the State of New Hampshire, were employed during the summer, returning to their homes to spend the winter. Coming from a State where, from the earliest days, no Catholic was permitted to hold any office by its constitution, and whose traditions run back to the Catholic persecutions of the Irish Presbyterians in the north of Ireland, they were ready, through prejudice, to welcome this “Maria Monk” pamphlet, and take it home with them for winter reading. They came back to their employment at the brickyards in the spring, with their prejudices and passions inflamed against the convent, the supposed misdemeanors in which had formed the largest portion of the family winter-evening discussions.

The result was that, in August, 1834, combinations were formed among these men and their comrades to interfere with and harass the inmates of the school. The first open attack was made by setting dogs upon two of the female pupils who were walking in the grounds. This was reported to the authorities, but no redress was given. Divers outrages were perpetrated, and the selectmen of the town [112] were called upon to examine the school. They made the examination. They found nothing to report derogatory to its character, and so made no report.

Early in the evening of the 18th of August, 1834, these brickmakers assembled near the convent. They were joined by others of like class. Other men began to arrive in their carriages and stop and form a part of the crowd around the school grounds. Some came from quite a distance. It was well known in the vicinity that some-thing was to happen to the convent on that night. The writer learned of it at Lowell, twenty-five miles away, and, in company with other young men, ascended Fort Hill, the highest eminence in Lowell, whence Mount Benedict could be easily seen with a glass, and whence the fire of the convent, between nine and ten o'clock that night, was very plainly visible.

A bonfire was built about nine o'clock in front of the grounds. Soon after, the rioters broke into the buildings and drove out the ladies, forcing them to take refuge in the tomb. Then, first setting fire to the bishop's lodge, they burned the whole establishment, not a drop of water from the fire department reaching the place. This was so quickly accomplished, and there was such lack of information in Boston as to what was to be done by the rioters, that no general alarm was called. On the following day, a meeting in Faneuil Hall, attended by the best people of Boston, denounced the outrages, and the utmost indignation was expressed at the horrible event. The firmness, moderation, and full control which Bishop Fenwick had of the Catholic citizens of Boston prevented retaliation, the consequences of which might have been awful.

The Catholic Church, which owned the property, permitted the blackened ruins to be left standing as they were, refusing all offers of purchase of the site; and it was first encroached upon under the right of eminent domain by taking part of it for a street. All in vain were the efforts of the officers of justice of the county of Middlesex to bring to justice the offenders who committed this monstrous arson. John R. Buzzell, a brickmaker, who led the riot, and who confessed that he had done so, was tried and acquitted. A boy of seventeen, Marvin Marcy Jr., who had been drawn into the affair purely for love of mischief, was alone convicted, and he was set at liberty at the expiration of seven months. Arson in the night-time [113] was then punishable by death. No man doubts that there never was a more outrageous transaction, or one more disgraceful to a Massachusetts community, or one that caused a greater libel upon its justice.

At that time the laws of Massachusetts contained no provision which made the town or community pecuniarily responsible to the losers by such riotous acts. The owners of the school appealed to the legislature for redress, claiming that they were entitled to it because their loss was suffered by the supineness of the constituted authorities. The legislature, however, refused to pass any bill for the relief of the sufferers; but in 1839, five years afterwards, they did pass a bill by which such losses could be compensated in the future, being driven to the enactment by the justice of this claim. That act provided that when any town suffered such an outrage to be committed thereafter, it should be liable for three-quarters of the value of the property destroyed. But they forgot to pass a bill giving three-quarters of the value to the sufferers by the convent fire, and left the poor young lady pupils to pocket the loss of their wardrobes.

At the age of thirty-four I found myself for the first time a member of the House of Representatives of Massachusetts, with the memory of the sight of those flames still vivid. The thoughts that clustered around that memory were intensified by the feeling that great disgrace had attached to Massachusetts, because no reparation therefor had been made. The legislature was in the hands of a new party of young men, composed of the democracy and those whose sense of great injustice to the slaves had caused them to break away from the Whig party, which had controlled the legislature quite wholly since the burning was done. Animated with hope of justice at their hands, and without consultation with anybody, I caused the subject to be brought before the legislature, argued it before the committee, and had a bill for the relief of the injured parties reported. After full discussion it passed the House, on a Friday, as I remember, and went to the Senate for its action. I have never doubted that, if I had been fortunate enough to have had my bill pass on Tuesday, it would have been sustained by the Senate on Wednesday or Thursday. But virulent religious clamor was raised, and on Sunday a goodly number of clergymen — such as afterwards [114] so severely criticised my Fast-Day proclamation as governor — preached sectarian discourses against the bill of relief, and it failed in the Senate, never to my knowledge to be since revived. I think I am doing right in recalling these transactions, because it illustrates an unhappy condition of mind which has ever led me to be with the under dog in the fight when I thought he had been wronged; and therefore I have been so often unsuccessful in my action.

The Coalition party obtained ascendancy in the legislature elected in 1851, because in 1850 we had passed an act “For the Conduct of elections,” always known by the name of the “Secret ballot law.” I bring it to attention now because I desire that if anybody reads this book who is interested in the question how an election can be best conducted, he will turn to the provisions of that law. All but one section of it remained on the statute book up to the time when Massachusetts was instructed in voting by the English penal convict colony, Australia. I think our citizens must have known all that people did about elections by ballot, for they have used it for more than three hundred years in their elections. Prior to that a kernel of corn meant yea, and a bean nay, so that we have a saying still in general use that applies to a man who doesn't exactly know his opponents, in the phrase, “He doesn't know [his] beans.”

Our secret ballot of forty years ago was an economical, certain, accurate, and perfectly practicable system of voting, by which all frauds could be detected, and all undue influence upon the voters avoided. The system was this:--The State supplied for use of the voters envelopes capable of being readily sealed, of uniform size and texture, stamped with the State arms, and no ballot could be deposited by the voter except one enclosed in such sealed envelope. If more than one vote for the same officer, or no vote, was found therein, there was no vote to be counted; but the envelopes were kept as a tally with the check list. His ballot might be prepared by the voter anywhere, even in the family circle.

The elections of 1851 and 1852, upon the question of a ten-hour law, were carried by means of this ballot against the combined influence of all the corporations in the State. No accusation of fraud was ever made because of the use of it. The only objection ever stated against it was that the employer might take his workman to the polls, give him a sealed envelope containing his ballot, and see [115] that he put the envelope in the box. That was undertaken in Lowell, but the attempt thus to control his vote was as easily met by the voter. He brought his envelope with him and changed envelopes, voting the one he had brought and keeping the one that had been given him. On the night of election day many workingmen brought into the committee rooms of their party the envelopes which had been given them by their overseers, and described the manner in which they had eluded the men who attempted to control them.

If the law in its entirety had stood one year longer, a single provision that no one should be in sight of the voter when he deposited his envelope would have removed all possible objection; and such a provision would have been made. But the Whig party got control of the legislature in 1854, and, not daring to attempt directly to repeal the secret ballot, passed a provision making it “optional” with the voter to vote the secret ballot. Then the employer knew that if his laborer voted a secret ballot he desired to conceal his vote; so that voting a secret ballot told, in closely contested elections, for which party the elector voted. The optional provision, therefore, entirely defeated the objects of the law, and such voting fell into disuse.

We have now adopted the Australian system, which is by no means so simple or so effective, and which will cause the State to expend very many thousands of dollars at each election to carry it out. I am opposed to that system by which a man who is not instructed as to the names of the officers to be voted for upon his ballot, can be easily deluded into voting for those whom he desires not to vote for. I am opposed to that system in which a man refuses to mark his ballot through disgust with the performance of finding out candidates for his vote that have not even, so far as he knows, the endorsement of his party. While I write this a gentleman sitting near says: “If he can read the words ‘ Democratic ’ and ‘ Republican’ he can find out, can he not?” To which I answer that he can find out that those two words are there; but who put them there, or whether they are there honestly, or whether they represent the sentiments of the candidate, the voter has no means of determining.

Early in the session of 1851 Robert Rantoul, Jr., than whom the State never boasted a more eloquent or logical man as a political [116] debater, was elected to the short term in the U. S. Senate, in the place of the Hon. Robert C. Winthrop, who had been appointed by the governor to succeed Webster in the Senate. Winthrop was the candidate of the opposition to Charles Sumner, who was loyally supported by the Coalition Democrats, or those who were elected on that ticket, with the exception of two or three. From the first, Sumner received within a very few votes of a majority, though bitterly opposed by the Hunker Democrats and all the Whigs, sixteen persons receiving scattering votes. The voting went on until April of that year, when Sumner lacked only two votes of an election. But the count disclosed that there had been two more votes cast than there were members present.

Early in the session a bill for voting by sealed envelopes at State elections was introduced, and was pressed before the legislature against the united vote of the Whig and Hunker parties. In this condition of things Mr. Sidney Bartlett, the Whig leader,--who until the day of his death at ninety years of age was one of the foremost lawyers of Massachusetts, if riot the foremost one,--made what he deemed to be a very cunning proposition, but which, contrary to his expectations, turned out to be a very decisive one. He believed that the scattering votes were all against Sumner, and that his vote was held to him by the party discipline of the Coalition combination. This was Mr. Bartlett's proposition, viz: As the Coalition members are desirous of having all voting done by secret ballot, would they try it in the election of senator?

This, of course, was illogical, and, in fact, unconstitutional. The people have a right to vote in secret; the representatives of the people have no right to vote in secret, and votes in all legislative matters, except the election of a senator, could, if demanded, be by viva voce. The United States Constitution and the constitutions of all the States have made provisions that the manner in which the representatives shall vote must be open, and have provided that it shall be made so by the call of the yeas and nays upon the demand of a meagre minority. The people are entitled to know how their representatives vote, and nobody ought to know how one of the people votes, for they are the supreme power, and are accountable to nobody.

I happened to be on the floor of the House, and standing beside the chairman of the State Committee of the Free-Soil party, who, I saw, [117] was in momentary doubt upon the question. I said: “Give Bartlett the secret ballot, and you will vindicate it sufficiently and whip him besides.” He immediately arose and said that those with whom the acted agreed cordially with the proposition of the representative from Boston; so Bartlett's motion passed by a large majority. Upon the next call the sealed envelopes were handed in, and their number was found to correspond exactly with the clerk's tally of the names of members called, showing that neither mistake nor fraud could happen with the secret ballot. But, when the ballots were counted, Sumner was declared elected by one majority. And thus the promise of the “long eel” to the Free-Soiler was confirmed, by a political arrangement more fairly and justly carried out than any other with which I have ever been acquainted.

The fact was, the Hunker Democrats were controlled in their votes by the fear of losing their standing in the Democratic party, which we all believed would, by voting for a Free-Soiler, control the coming presidential election in the autumn of 1852.

They had no doubt of that, because the candidate we all looked for was Judge Levi Woodbury, the friend and twice appointed cabinet officer of Jackson, and the able and upright Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. In this, however, we were unhappily disappointed by his too early death in the following October.

His selection as a Democratic candidate for the presidency in 1848 was undoubtedly prevented by the unhappy controversies in the State of New York, which were carried into the national convention, of which I was a member, and which resulted in the withdrawal of the friends of Mr. Van Buren and the Free-Soil rupture in the party, with Van Buren for a candidate at the election.

Notwithstanding the defeat of the Coalitionists in the election of 1852, the proposition to have a constitutional convention in Massachusetts, which had failed in 1851 by a majority of five thousand votes, was renewed by the legislature of 1852, and was carried by a majority of nearly the same number. The majority rule had caused many double elections for representatives to be held every year, prolonging the election contests substantially for thirty days. A change seemed imperative, and all parties appeared to recognize the necessity for it. The House of Representatives was very large and would bear considerable reduction; and it was thought to be better [118] to elect senators by single districts, instead of by counties, which would give the people a more equal representation. By the provisions of the call of that convention, which was adopted by the vote of the people, every town was to have at least one delegate, and that delegate might be selected from any part of the State by the voters of any town. The consequence was that there was an attempt to select the ablest men by both parties, without regard to location or residence; and many able men, who, on account of the political views of their neighbors, could not be elected by their home towns, were elected sometimes from the town of their birth, and sometimes from the town of their choice, and sometimes from the town itself requesting them to act. I think Governor Boutwell was elected by the town of Berlin, a little town on the edge of Worcester County, and not by Groton, the town where he resided. Mr. Benjamin F. Hallett, a very distinguished Hunker Democrat living in Boston, who had not the slightest hope of being elected in that city, was elected from the town of Wilbraham, and thus with many others; so that it may be fairly said that the ablest men of the State formed that convention. There were four hundred and twenty-one members of the convention. For myself, I had so far outlived newspaper libels and attacks, which by propriety of life and conduct one can always easily do, that I was elected from my home in Lowell, and served as chairman of the committee to which was assigned the revision of chapter six of the old constitution.

The debates in that body, as a rule, were distinguished by fairness, courtesy, and argument. Scarcely a distasteful personal allusion was made. It performed its work with great diligence, but, having voted to have its proceedings, including the speeches, reported verbatim, the session was too long protracted, because, under such conditions, everybody wants to say something which shall be read by somebody.

It is a singular fact in the history of all legislative assemblies that not much is actually done where the proceedings are officially reported. In the United States Senate there is more business done in the few days of secret or executive session, where no speeches are reported, than is done during the whole session in open Senate where the proceedings and speeches are published day by day, with very little profit to anybody. Indeed, for several years no report whatever was made of the proceedings of the Senate, which was deemed [119] in those days to be an executive rather than a legislative body, and all its sessions were held with closed doors.

I have said that all legislative assemblies that ever did anything worth being done were not officially reported. The National Assembly of the French Republic and the Cromwellian Parliament of England, when the heads of their kings were cut off, were substantially secret sessions,--that is, their proceedings were not reported. Indeed, the celebrated declaration of Deputy Sieyes when he cast his vote, “La mort sans phrase” (Death without talk), is about all the speech-making that is remembered on that occasion of taking a royal life by a vengeful people. Something was done by such an assembly.

The convention that framed the Constitution of the United States had no official reporters, and the details of what was done there in the matter of speeches are only from the memoranda and recollections of some of the more industrious and painstaking members. Elliott's Debates is rather the memory of what was said than anything like a report. And so the Congress or convention that declared the independence of the United States in 1776 had no reporter; and all agree that something was done there.

The Massachusetts Constitution, as submitted to the suffrages of the people, contained all that was valuable in the old Constitution, with many needful additional provisions and amendments. These additions deserved to meet the approbation of the people of the State, and they did within the next three years. But this Constitution failed to be adopted at the general election in November, 1853, by the very insignificant adverse majority of less than four thousand votes. This majority was wholly composed of the Catholic vote in Boston alone, as the rest of the State voted for the Constitution in spite of the Catholic vote in its cities and towns.

It may not be uninteresting to preserve as a matter of history the reason for the failure of this proposed Constitution. Of course it was supported by the party of the Coalition, the Democracy and Free-Soil men, and was bitterly opposed by the Whigs and Hunkers, the Mugwumps of that day. The Democratic party of Massachusetts then embraced as now a large portion of the Catholics of the State. During the session of the convention an article was introduced, which is now Article 18 of the “Amendments,” in which [120] was contained the following provision: “And such money [i. e., money raised by taxation] shall never be appropriated to any religious sect for the maintenance, exclusively, of its own school.”

After a prolonged debate in the convention, that article was made a portion of the proposed Constitution substantially by the vote of the Whigs, aided by some Coalition voters who styled themselves “Native Americans.”

This provision was understood to be aimed at the Roman Catholic schools and intended to deprive that Church of the possibility, in the near future, of having any of the school money of the State appropriated either by endowment or otherwise to the schools wherein the Roman Catholic faith should be taught to the pupils. With the unwisdom that has not unfrequently appeared in the proceedings of the Romish priesthood, and with a want of foresight that proved disastrous to their school system, under the lead of the Bishop of Boston everything was done to prevent the Catholics from voting for the adoption of the Constitution, and their votes caused its rejection at the polls.

Thus were sacrificed all the provisions for the benefit of the common people which the party of Free-Soil and Democracy had engrafted upon the Constitution and hoped to have made permanent, and all because of an inconsiderate and unwise act of one religious sect in arraying itself against all others in an endeavor to make the common school education a religious education This article of the proposed Constitution applied to all religious sects, and under it no peculiar doctrine could ever be taught in the common schools.

This performance, which struck down the Constitution invoked a bitterness among the people against the Catholic religion, such as had never before been, to any considerable degree, either felt or foreshadowed in the State of Massachusetts. It caused for a time a substantial obliteration of all parties save the “Native American” party, familiarly called the Know-Nothing party, which came into power in January, 1855.

This bigoted and most unscrupulous party, held together in secret organization through secret oaths, had grown up during the preceding year, like a mushroom in the night, and elected Henry J. Gardner, a young Boston banker, by a majority such as had never before been heard of. This movement broke down the Whig party, [121] and substantially absorbed the other two parties. Gardner maintained his hold upon the State for three years, and in the very first year, 1855, this 18th Article was approved by the legislature, and it was ratified by the people on the 23d day of May of that year. Article 20 of the Constitution was another blow to the power of the Catholic Church and the Irishmen. It provided that “No person shall have the right to vote, or be eligible to office, who shall not be able to read the Constitution in the English language, and write his name.” This article was adopted on the recommendation of the same legislature, May 1, 1859.

This provision has been opposed by the Democratic party in the State ever since, and is one to which the writer has ever been opposed. It is not levelled against ignorance wholly, because it shuts out from voting or holding office the most learned professor of a foreign university, if it so happen that he cannot read the Constitution in the English language. But I do not hold, and never shall believe, that the matter of reading and writing should determine the capacity of a man to govern himself. Most of the barons of England could not write their names, yet they wrested from King John that palladium of the freedom of the people, Magna Charta, and established the rights of the people against royal prerogative.

An examination of the pay-rolls of that revolution which established the liberty of this country will show that much the larger number of the soldiers were such as could not have voted under the strict application of this rule of the Constitution of Massachusetts. While they could not write their names, they made their marks at least, upon the bodies of the Hessian soldiers of Great Britain, who were bought to maintain kingly power here. Such a provision is an invasion of liberty and the rights of men, and to-day is depriving substantially all the laboring men of the South of that true citizenship which the soldiers of Massachusetts, many of whom could not read and write, fought to give them,--namely, equality of rights that belonged to the man because he was a man.

These several “Native American” legislatures, which were very largely composed of the lower class of sectarian preachers, were found to be among the most corrupt legislatures that had ever convened in Massachusetts. They employed their time in seeing how they could, by legislation, strike down the Catholic religion and the Catholic [122] clergy of Massachusetts. They passed the most vindictive laws for the purpose of taking away the property of a Catholic Church from those who held it by law and right, and would have succeeded in so doing had it not been that they were, in fact, what their name implied, “Know-Nothings.”

I thank God, and that always, that upon my political escutcheon there is no tarnish of its brightness, in the form of adherence to any doctrine which would deprive of his equal rights with others a man of foreign birth, who comes to this country in accordance with the law of nations, and takes part in its government under its laws. I respected my great-grandfathers too much for that.

I fought Know-Nothingism “from start to finish.” Nor can there be found upon my escutcheon the taint of any action against the equality of right and the equality of power of all men to govern themselves so long as they obey the laws of the country which gives them protection and hope of prosperity for themselves and their children. I have ever contemned any machinery of government, however cunningly devised, and however speciously concealed, by which the few shall govern the many under whatever pretence of superiority in anything, especially in color.

If this nation of ours ever comes to naught, it will be because the few, under one pretext or another, holding the power, have oppressed the many. The history of the world may be examined with a vision aided by the highest microscopic power, and it will appear that the few have ever oppressed the many when they could get the power to do it; but the many have never oppressed the few, although they always have had it in their power so to do.

I know that this declaration will be met, as it has been, with the statement: “But what do you say of the French Revolution when the people massacred the aristocracy?” My answer is: That illustrates my proposition. Long years of oppression, growing more exacting and brutal day by day, until the conditions of life became insufferable in France, had crazed the people. They uprose to change their government from a kingly aristocratic despotism to a constitutional government of the people. At first they went no further. They stopped there, as did our Puritan ancestry in England when they cut off the head of the first Charles. But the kings and lords of all the countries of Europe supported the aristocracy of France in [123] its bloody attacks and conspiracies to overthrow the government of the people, and the people did rightly in rendering powerless, aye, in killing the oppressors and their allies, who were endeavoring to recover power to oppress them. Those acts of the people during the French Revolution which are so much complained of were made necessary by the efforts of the crowned heads of Europe to restore despotism to its powers and possessions in France, and they were acts well adapted to make that restoration impossible. If it is urged that the people went too far in that direction, I remember what outrages they and their fathers had suffered for generations; and while I may grieve over the results, I have the strongest possible inclination to pardon their acts.

In my political action thenceforward, I maintained my allegiance to the Democratic party. I attended as a delegate every national convention from 1848 to 1860 inclusive. I was frequently candidate for Congress in my district, but never with the slightest prospect of success, the votes on all questions being more than three to one against the Democracy.

In 1858 I was elected to the Senate of Massachusetts by the citizens of Lowell. I was the only Democrat on the ticket. In that legislature I drew the bill reforming the Judiciary of the State, so far as it could constitutionally be done, the Supreme Judicial Court being placed out of reach of reform by the provisions of the Constitution. The Court of Common Pleas, substantially the trial court of the people's causes, was abolished, and a new Court established upon a basis on which it remains to-day. Most of the provisions of that bill are still the law of the State.

During all these years, from 1840 to 1860, I was receiving instruction in another science. This instruction had a most important bearing upon my after life, and became of very considerable importance to the country. In 1839, the autumn before I was admitted to the bar, I had joined as a volunteer soldier in organizing a new company in the Massachusetts disciplined soldiery, called the “Lowell City guard.” I carried my musket in that company for three years. I encamped with the company, either in conjunction with the regiment to which it belonged, or in our private encampments, from five to nine days every year. I did this to learn the duties of a soldier, for I believed then that in the course of my life I should be called upon sometime to perform those duties as a soldier in actual war. [124]

While my military duties were a favorite source of instruction, they took a considerable portion of that time which was my resource for recreation. But I took substantially no other. I never went to a horse race, although I was exceedingly fond of horses; I never went to Saratoga or Newport until after the late war; and I never spent three consecutive days in any year at any summer resort. I did take, however, a few short trips on board small vessels at sea.

I learned the “school of the soldier,” soon was promoted to be an officer of the lower grade, and then steadily went up, never attempting to pass a grade without fully filling the position in due order of promotion, until having served in every lower grade, I was elected colonel of the regiment to which I had belonged since 1840.

Our citizen soldiery, known by the name of the “Massachusetts volunteer militia,” were organized and armed by the State and in part supported by it. Sometimes in companies, and sometimes in regiments or larger bodies, the soldiers were called together for encampment five days each year. We were allowed, within certain rules, to uniform ourselves as we pleased. All else but our rations was furnished by the State. We were armed with arms issued by the United States, and in all things we observed, as far as we could, the tactics and regulations of the army of the United States.

Most of us were men quite young, who entered the service for the love of military learning. There was enthusiastic rivalry and emulation between tho several organizations, as well as between the several soldiers that composed the companies. I have seen a company of Massachusetts volunteers, before the war, perform all the duties of the school of the soldier, and of the school of the battalion, as well as I have ever seen them done by any body of men outside of West Point.

Of course we were not as good as regulars in the opinion of the United States officers; that was impossible. Their military movements were mechanical; ours were voluntary. We went through our drill because we loved to do it; they went through theirs because they were made to do it. Every right-minded officer since the war appreciates the difference.

When the Know-Nothing Governor Gardner took his seat in 1855, there was a company in my regiment known as the “Jackson Musketeers.” It was composed of young men either born of Irish parents [125] or Irishmen themselves, and all its members were citizens, Democrats and Catholics. They did their very best to make themselves equal to the other companies, and they succeeded, precisely as in Boston now the Ninth Regiment, composed of Irishmen, is quite equal, in all that makes a soldier, to any other regiment.

Of course when the Know-Nothing “Native American” frenzy swept over the State, there was a call for the disbandment of that company, and an incident happened which called special attention to myself.

The bitterness of political opinion that resulted in Know-Nothingism raised strong antipathies among the unthinking and unruly elements of the city. At one time it was rumored that a riotous mob would attack and burn our very fine costly Catholic Church, as was done by a riotous Know-Nothing mob in Philadelphia. The city authorities were alarmed, and they called upon me to know, as colonel commanding, whether the military would be found stanch on the side of law and order. I had but one reply to make,--that the soldiery would obey my orders. The next question came: “But how about your Irish company?” I said I did not look for any trouble on that score. Meanwhile it was reported that the military might be called out, and this report caused the Know-Nothings to say that in that case they would know which company to stone. To make sure that the soldiers were all right, I called together four companies, instructed them that we might possibly be called upon to preserve the peace, and showed them how our organization might be made most effective.

Then I formed all the soldiers of the four companies into one line, giving the familiar order “size march,” upon which every man put himself in the rear of the man that was next above his height. When that line was made, intermingling the men according to their several statures, I divided the battalion into four equal companies, each averaging one Irishman to three Americans. I thought it would be difficult for a mob, in the night-time, to distinguish uniformed Irishmen so as to make targets of them; or, if we had to attack the Irish element, it would be equally difficult for them to distinguish the Yankees. That proposed formation of the troops was noised abroad, and our city was not disgraced by a mob or a riot.

Governor Gardner had scarcely got warm in his chair when I received his order disbanding the “Jackson Musketeers,” which I [126] was ordered to transmit and cause to be executed. I did not obey the order, but addressed a polite but specific letter to the Commander-in-Chief, stating that his action was not in conformity with the law of the State. I declared that the governor had no lawful power to take such action upon any such ground, and that I must refuse to execute such command.

As I supposed would be the case, I received an order dismissing me from the service as colonel.

My reply was that the governor could not dismiss me without the finding by a court martial that I was guilty of a military offence, and my disobedience of an illegal order, in time of peace, would not be such an offence. I stated that I was ready to try that question, if he would order a court martial. He dared not do it.

I immediately prepared papers to have him restrained from his illegal course. To carry his point, by the advice of his council, some of whom were members of the bar, he claimed that he had the power to reorganize the militia. This was by law organized in certain territorial districts, that is to say, each regiment was to be within a given territory, and the officers were to be residents in their proper districts.

Gardner issued an order to reorganize the militia, disbanding all the regiments and renumbering them differently. In this way matters were fixed so that my residence came in the territory of the Sixth Regiment, a regiment of which I was not colonel, and the Fifth Regiment was put somewhere else where I could not be colonel.

Because of this trick, there was nothing to be done but to submit to the injustice. I said nothing, but waited for a vacancy in the office of brigadier-general of the brigade of which I had been one of the colonels. Under our constitution the field officers of the brigade elected their brigadier, and if there was no objection, they usually elected the senior colonel. My fellow-officers were kind enough to treat me as if I had not been turned out, and elected me brigadier-general. I had the pleasure of receiving from Governor Gardner a commission as brigadier-general, signed by himself as chief executive of the Commonwealth. He could not withhold his signature, for if he did, he and his attorney-general very well knew that proceedings for a mandamus would be after him with celerity and vigor, if nothing more. [127]

Meantime this contest had made some stir, and President Pierce sent the new brigadier-general an appointment as visitor at West Point, authorizing me to examine that institution. Thus I had the good fortune to have two military appointments, one signed by the Know-Nothing Governor Gardner, and the other one signed by the Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis. When at West Point, I was introduced to General Scott, who took me cordially by the hand, and said, “I am very glad that the oldest general in the United States has the pleasure of receiving the youngest general in the United States.”

I encamped with my brigade four years, in 1857, 1858, 1859, and 1860, so that in fact I had commanded a larger body of troops, duly uniformed and equipped, than any general of the United States army then living except General Scott. In 1860 Governor Banks called together at Concord the whole volunteer militia of Massachusetts, amounting to nearly six thousand men. I encamped five days with them, so that I had seen together, for discipline, instruction, and military movement, a larger body of troops than even General Scott had seen together, for he never had so many in one body in Mexico.

I have a reason for being thus particular in giving my experience in military matters. After I had “won my spurs” at Annapolis and Baltimore, I was, on the 16th of May, 1861, appointed to the actual command of troops in the field. The appointment was criticised by a lieutenant of topographical engineers, who afterwards became a general in the army, but who, at that time, had never commanded a corporal's guard but only took pictures of the country. He said I had no military experience, never having been to West Point. He forgot that putting an animal into a stable does not make him a horse; that point being better determined by the length of his ears.


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