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Chapter 18: at Washington.

On our arrival in Washington we start for the White House to see the President. In crossing the park we meet Secretary Fish and Secretary Bristow, and --exchange with them the latest news from New

Orleans. The Full Committee, startled by the Sub-Committee's report, is going South; but no one thinks a new enquiry will present new facts. The thing is done: the truth is told. Yet President Grant, though yielding to public opinion, appears to cling to his old idea that the South should not be left to settle their elections at the ballot-box.

Finding the President engaged, we go into the drawing-room and spend some minutes with his family. Mrs. Grant receives us, and presents us to her son, Colonel Grant, and that son's wife. No princess does the honours of her house more affably [187] than Mrs. Grant. She likes the White House very much, she says, and few ladies have seen more of it than she. “Before we came to live here, many of my female friends assured me it was a hole, a wretched hole,” she rattles merrily, “and I whispered in their ears that if I could not get on I would send for them-ha! ha!” Some critics, in their present state of mind, would find a taint of female Caesarism in such persiflage. Her drawing-room window looks on a garden, at the end of which stands the unfinished column of George Washington, cutting the line of the Potomac, and parting the hills of Virginia. Vanities of human pride! That column, which was meant to reach the sky, is broken short. That river, which was deemed a sure defence of the republican capital, has been profaned by hostile fleets. Those hills, which are so lovely and so fertile, have been wasted by American fire.

“ Another deputation from the Senate,” sighs the President, coming through a private door from his reception-room. He looks fatigued and worried. Dropping on a chair he puffs at his cigar, apparently [188] forgetting guests and drawing-rooms, his broad and intellectual features strained and grim. We talk of New Orleans.

“The state of things in that section is unbearable,” says the President, brightening up. “Here, in this cabinet, I have a list made out by General Sheridan of three thousand murders and attempts at murder in Louisiana.”

“I have seen a later list, in which the figures count up to four thousand.”

“Four thousand! ” exclaims the President.

“Yes, four thousand; and the list is growing every hour. Nothing is easier than to make such lists. You have only to ask for ten thousand; Packard and Pinchback will be able to supply them in a week.”

“You think the figures incorrect?”

“The figures may be true enough. Violence is common on the Gulf of Mexico, where a civilized race is fighting with two savage races; but the question is-how far these murders and attempts at .murder have their sources in political passion?”

“Why,” puts in Colonel Grant, “ there were three thousand political murders in Texas last year; three [189] thousand murders of Negroes in a single State in one year!”

“ That statement strikes one oddly. We have recently come from Texas, which we crossed from north to south, from Red River to Galveston. On every road we heard of crime; a man stabbed here, a cabin burnt there. At every drinking-crib we heard of rows in which knives were drawn and shots fired. Much of this crime was Negro crime. Yet, from Red River to Galveston, although the talk ran constantly on acts of violence, we never once heard these acts of violence attributed to political causes. Books and journals show you that the crime in Texas is not so much White on Black, or Black on White, as Black on Black.”

“ I don't read books nor journals either,” says the President moodily, “except the clippings made for me by Babcock.” General Babcock is the Private Secretary.

This saying of the President is no joke. General Grant never opens a book or peeps into a paper; yet he cannot keep his eyes off caricatures of himself. Opponents, well aware of his weakness, sting and flout him through the eye. Here squats [190] the President in a nursery, with a. wooden horse, a paper crown, marked “Caesar,” and a box of toy bricks, which he is trying to build into a throne. Senator Kernan, a democrat, addresses him-speaking for the coming host of Democrats : “Oh, mighty Caesar! Dost thou lie so low?” Here Uncle Sam, in the character of a pedlar, struts into the White House, with a coffin on his shoulder, which he tilts against the wall. The coffin is inscribed: “Third term.” Uncle Sam points to his wares, and asks the President: “You want a third term?”

Great pains are taken by the President's family to hide the coarser things from him. It is a common pleasantry for American girls to say they peep at all books and papers before laying them on the family table, to see whether they are fit for older people to read. The ladies of the White House assume these offices for the President; but he ferrets out the worst attacks, and sits in front of them for hours, chewing his cigar in speechless rage.

“ I am disgusted with these wasps and hornets,” he remarks, “yet cannot help looking at them.”

Few soldiers have enjoyed the art of treating caricatures like Fritz der Einige: “ Let everyone see [191] and speak. My people and myself understand each other; they say what they like, I do what I like.”

If it be true that a man is not really famous till he is well abused, it is not the less true that a man is never much abused till he has made himself famous in some other way. Grant may not be, like O'Connell, the best-abused man alive, but is assuredly the worst-abused man in the United States. All sorts of sins and vices ale imputed to him. According to the caricatures he is a tyrant and a traitor, an assassin and a thief. He wants a third term of office, he keeps a military household, he despises civil authority. He is called Caesar in mockery, Soulouque in earnest. Hosts of mean offences are imputed to him-avarice, nepotism, venality-and the comic papers bristle with insults and assaults. In one of these prints a naughty boy, climbing into Uncle Sam's pantry to reach some “ third term” preserve, upsets “habeas corpus” jam, for which, being caught in the fact, he is soundly whipped on the back. One large cartoon, by Matt Morgan, has the title: “ Grant's Last Blow at Louisiana.” A handsome female figure mounts the steps of the Capitol with a petition. Grant .comes out to [192] meet her, with his two mastiffs, Phil and Belknap, and upbraids her: “You have dared to despise the masters I put over you; you have the temerity to wish to govern yourself. I whipped you once. You have no rights that a soldier is bound to respect.” To which abuse Louisiana objects: “ I am a Free State. I obey the Federal law. I am suffering for law and peace. I merely wish to rule myself under the constitution.” “ Constitution!” cries the armed ruler, plunging his dagger into her heart, “I am your constitution.”

In the passion of the moment, everything good and fine in General Grant is overlooked, even his genius as a captain and his services in the field. It is a great misfortune for a soldier to have won his laurels in domestic strife. One half the nation hates him for his talent, and the second half desires to bury him and his services in oblivion. If Naseby and Dunbar had been fought in France instead of in England and Scotland, Cromwell would not have been without his statue. What German ever mentions Waldburg? What Gaul is proud of Guise? Yet hardly any Cavalier denied that Cromwell was a great soldier; and an Englishman cannot hear [193] without surprise and pain that the man who captured Donelson, Vicksburg, and Richmond is not a great soldier.

Sheridan,” says the President, returning to his lieutenant, “ is a man of drill and order, who understands the South. But the public have mistaken Sheridan, and they will not see his actions in the proper light.” Without saying so in words, he seems to mean that Sheridan is suffering from the general but unjust suspicion under which his Government lies. If so, the President is right. The odium is undoubtedly great; yet Grant is suffering as much for Sheridan as Sheridan is suffering for Grant.

The Black Question, like the Red Question, is broader than the policy of a day, and longer than the lives of Sheridan and Grant. Can coloured people live in freedom? Can a Negro bear the rough friction, the close contact, and the hot competition of an Anglo-Saxon? Higher races than the African are dying in this fierce contention. Where is the Pict, the Cymri, and the Gael? Where, on American soil, are the Six Nations, the Horse Indians, the Mexicans? What facts in natural history suggest that Negroes are exceptions to a [194] general rule? The strong advance, the fit survive. Are Negroes stronger to advance, and fitter to survive than Whites?

In going to the Capitol with Senator Fowler, we meet Tom Chester, a Negro of pure blood, from New Orleans, whose acquaintance I made some years since, in our salad days. Chester was a student of the Middle Temple when I was eating mutton at the Inner Temple. Called to the English bar, he went to New Orleans, where he has practised ever since. He sails to Europe now and then, and we have met in good houses, of the revolutionary sort, tenanted by Polish, French, and German refugees.

“Are you a Kelloggite?”

“No! A native of the South, I wish to live at peace with my White neighbours. I am not exactly a public man, for I have never sought and never held office. I am not ashamed of my complexion. Many of my people are very ignorant and very stupid. I admit the laziness, too; but they are such as God made them; and, in truth, they have fine qualities. If left alone, they would soon be on good terms with their old masters. It is not the Negro, as a rule, who makes the row.” [195]

“ You mean that the carpet-baggers, men like Kellogg and Chamberlain, make the rows?”

“ Not in our interest, but their own. These men our friends! You know me. In New Orleans I have the respect of bar and bench. No advocate objects to act with me or to oppose me in any suit. White judges receive me. I dine with high and low, just as I should dine in London, Paris, and Berlin. But let me go up North, into the towns from which these Chamberlains and Kelloggs hail. I should not be allowed to dine at a common table in Boston and Chicago! I tell you we shall get on better in New Orleans when we are left alone.”

On coming from the Senate, where the Members are still flaming out against the President's policy in Louisiana, we meet Pinchback in the lobby.

“Cheated, sah,” he bawls at me; “cheated, sah. The Senators reject my papers! It is all dat Kellogg, sah!”

“Has not Governor Kellogg signed your papers properly?”

“Gubnor Kellogg! He gubnor! Dat Kellogg is a rascal, sah. He sign de papers all right; put big seal all right; den he write a letter underground, [196] for de Republicans not to vote. He want to come hisself. He neber stay in New Orleans. Sah, Kellogg is de greatest big rascal in America!”

“Pinch seems put out,” the Senator remarks, “but we must draw the line somewhere. A sound party man, I draw a line at the penitentiary. It may seem singular, but I object to sitting on the next chair to a Senator who has recently come out of jail.”

Emerging from the hall, and standing on the marble terrace looking over the Potomac towards the mountains of Virginia, I venture to say: “A White Revival seems to be setting in, not only in the South, but in the North and West. Have you Republicans no fear of going too far in trying to crush the whole White population of Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina under the heels of a small majority of Negroes and Mulattoes?”

“Yes, frankly; we have gone too far. It was an error; but we seemed to have no choice. We gave the Negroes votes in order to secure the policy of emancipation. If all fear of a return to slavery were gone, we should be willing to allow each State to judge how far the franchise ought to go, and [197] where it ought to stop. A common rule is good for common cases; but a man must be a fool, as well as a fanatic, who insists on applying one rule to every case. Logic is one thing, the public weal another. We allow the people of Nevada, Oregon, and California to refuse political rights to Asiatics.”

“Is not that Asiatic Question your next affair?”

“Yes: greater than the last. The Yellow Question is more menacing to republican institutions than the Black.”

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