The career of T. L. Clingman.
[from the Philadelphia times, October 10, 1896.] the sole survivor of the Southern ante-bellum Senators.
Once a conspicuous figure.
Made many telling speeches in his day. A frequent visitor to the ‘field of honor.’
When the death of the venerable ex-Senator George W. Jones
, of Iowa
, was announced recently, the misstatement went with it that ex-Senator Bradbury
, of Maine
, was the only living member of the senatorial group that was in office previous to the outbreak of the rebellion.
This was a curious mistake, in view of the fact that ex-Senator Harlan
, of Iowa
, is very much alive, that he was not only prominent as a senator and a member of the first Cabinet
, but also that he was an eager candidate for the nomination for Governor
last year, and that only a short time before the death of Jones
he had made a stirring speech to the old soldiers on Memorial Day.
Less curious, perhaps, yet still remarkable, was the fact that almost no commentator upon the death of Jones
and the ante-war senatorial group remembered that the last of the Southern Senators
to leave the Senate on account of the secession of States is still in the land of the living.
Thomas Lanier Clingman
, of North Carolina
, almost as prolific a coiner of speeches as Senator Stewart
or Senator Call
, remained in the Senate until the close of the extra session of the Senate which followed the inauguration of Lincoln
The body adjourned on March 28, 1861, and this one lone senator from a seceding State, said good-bye to his associates, and passed away only to meet his Northern friends on the field of battle.
had ended his career in the Senate several years before Clingman
entered the body, and Jones
also ante-dated Clingman
, the one having been born in 1805 and the other in 1806, while Clingman
first saw the light of day in 1812
was a man of striking appearance, and has attracted much attention during the last few years by his venerable presence.
He was a voluble conversationalist and a veritable cyclopedia of the persons and incidents of the 1830s, 1840s and 1850s. After all he was remembered chiefly on account of the fact that he was the second of Cilley
in the celebrated Cilley
duel, fought to a finish with rifles, amid the hills of Maryland
, and when Jones
' principal was practically murdered.
was not only a second in duels, but he was more than once a principal.
His most famous meeting was with one of his Southern colleagues, William L. Yancey
, of Alabama
, on account of words used by the latter during the famous debate upon the question of Texas
had twitted Southern senators harshly for their indifference in regard to a resolution bearing upon the reception of petitions from Abolitionists, he supporting the right of petition.
replied to his reflections with one of the bitterest and most personal of the tirades which made the Congresses of that day remarkable.
He declared that Clingman
was everwhere viewed as the betrayer of his country.
He was looked upon as a renegade recreant to the principles and interests of the South
He had gone over to the ranks of enemy, and then turned and flaunted the colors of that enemy in the faces of his own friends.
Of course, such language could have but one result.
Indeed, it was plainly intended to provoke a hostile meeting.
promptly sent a challenge, which was promptly accepted.
The place chosen was not the famous ground at Bladensburg
, but farther to the south, and but a short distance from the scene of the Cilley-Graves
Previous to the meeting, however, mutual friends made every attempt to arrange the difficulty, and when the irate gentlemen faced each other, they shot to miss; friends then brought them together.
made the amende honorable and the affair ended without bloodshed.
During his three terms in the House Clingman
plunged into debate upon every question, sometimes with more zeal than discretion, and frequently made himself the subject of sarcasm at the hands of members who felt able to cope with him. Many times he narrowly escaped compulsory visits to the field of honor, though he rarely sought to provoke a resort to pistols.
He was really a most gentle and lovable man, and preferred the pursuits of peace to the wrangles of the legislative hall.
After his course in the University
, where he showed a great aptitude for the acquirement of learning, he studied surveying and tramped the mountains of the old North State
with the compass and sextant.
He established the height of many of the most prominent peaks, and one in the Black Mountain
is called Clingman
's Peak, and one in Smoky Mountain
will always be known as Clingman
He was also geologist, lapidary and botanist, and gave to the world valuable information of the existence in his State of gold, diamonds, rubies, platinum and mica.
When the first wave of Darwinism swept over the world Clingman
took up the cudgels for the Hebraic view of the creation of man, one of the best of his many preserved papers in his exposition of the ‘Follies of Positive Philosophers.’
He lectured upon almost all subjects, and was as much at home in the domain of astronomy, as of gastronomy, a topic upon which he was fond of writing and talking.
His career in the Senate was brief and stormy.
He took his seat by appointment in 1858, and was subsequently elected for a full term, which began only a short time before he passed from the body into the Confederate army.
When Congress was called in extra session in July, 1861, to consider the question of preserving the Union
failed to put in an appearance.
No notice of his resignation had been received.
After a few days, his name, with the names of several others who had left the Senate long before the day when Clingman
was last seen there, were embodied in a resolution of expulsion.
James A. Bayard
, father of the present Ambassador, with a number of others, attempted to amend the resolution that it should provide merely that the names of the members be stricken from the list of senators, and the vote for the expulsion of the recalcitrants showed ten negatives, the most prominent among them being Bayard
, John C. Breckinridge
, Jesse D. Bright
and Andrew Johnson
Among those voting for the resolution were Zach Chandler
Among those from the South
who had left the Senate previous to Clingman
's disappearanec, were Jefferson Davis
, James M. Mason
, Judah P. Benjamin
, Robert Toombs
, and others hardly less notable.
It is by all odds the most historical Senate in its membership that has ever assembled, or there is hardly one whose name is not written indelibly in history.
Of all the notable Southerners, Clingman
is the only one remaining above the sod, and Harlan
is the only one of the Northern
Of the long list of great ones who were then in the House
, such as Charles Francis Adams
, Thaddeus Stevens
, Henry Winter Davis
, Grow, Dawes
and so on, the only living ones are Sherman
, Grow and Dawes
, and of the combined membership of the House
and Senate of that period, Sherman
and Grow are the only ones who are in the roster of the current Congress.
is alive, and that is all. His name will soon be added to the list of the dead, and then the Southern
wing of that extraordinary Senate may be assembled complete in another world.
Months ago Clingman
disappeared from Washington
, and even here there are a few who, if they were asked in regard to him, would not say that he is dead.
The plain truth is that the old gentleman had exhausted his means.
Not only that, but his mind has been gradually weakening for years and he needed attention, which he could not have commanded except among those of his own State and who knew and loved him. First he was taken to Confederate Soldiers' Home, but this was too much for the pride of his State, the people of which ever held him in high esteem, and, broken in body and wind, without a dollar of his own in the world, he is now living at his old home at Asheville
upon funds which are delicately placed at his disposal by friends who will not permit so exalted a citizen to live the late evening of his life in a charitable institution.
Almost as soon as the first bitterness of the war and of reconstruction began to be less poignantly felt, Clingman
reappeared in Washington
During the sittings of Congress the place had fascination for him that he could not resist.
He stopped at a prominent hotel as long as his purse would permit it, and then a boarding-house of the better sort was his home.
For long years he was accustomed to being pointed at in public places as one of the chief figures of the days of the rebellion.
In 1878 he issued a volume of speeches and lectures, along with
notes and comments.
The copies in the Congressional Library appear to have been well thumbed, and are evidently esteemed to be of some importance to history.
He was the originator, moreover, of a wonderful theory of making tobacco a cure-all for all the ills of human flesh, and during many of the years when he was in Washington
, it was a souce of much chagrin to him, that his friends seemed to grow tired of his expatiations relative to the virtues of the immortal weed as a panacea.
Much of the remnant of his fortune was spent upon the publication of a pamphlet upon this subject, but it seems to have gone the way of Pleasanton
's blue grass cure, and whether the theory of Clingman
was good no one can tell.
was a man of intense self-appreciation.
His desire to be remembered as a great factor in the affairs of the nation was something stronger than even that which is felt by most men of ambition.
As a young man, and as the aged companion of the ‘colonels,’ ‘majahs’ and ‘Judges,’ of that genus which was for a few years so plentifully represented, but which is now well nigh extinct.
was of handsome and commanding appearance.
He was always dressed with fine care until his purse gave out, and even then his threadbare and shining coat set on him so nicely, that anyone would know it was the coat of a gentleman, and that the gentleman was inside.
He and the late W. W. Corcoran
were intimate friends, and it was through the friendship of the latter that Clingman
's portrait, painted with his favorite pose when speaking in the Senate, was placed in the Corcoran Gallery
of Art. Frequently the old man would walk into the gallery and remain for a long time in front of the painting, while the passing crowd would stand agape in wonder, recognizing that the original of the portrait stood there, and wondering why this gentility run to seed, should have been so honored with a place in one of the great art galleries of the land.
For years it hung in the gallery of portraits, among canvasses of Presidents
, Judges and great generals of the war on both sides.
At one time in the shifting of the pictures, that of Clingman
was placed much above the ‘line’ in one of the corner rooms.
The writer happened to be passing when the ex-senator entered.
He had missed the portrait from its accustomed place and had sought until he found it.
‘Why do you suppose they placed it here, in this dark room?’
he inquired in plaintive tones.
“Oh, it's probably just a temporary change,” was the answer.
“I do hope it is,” he murmured, his lips trembling and the tears springing to his eyes.
‘I want that portrait to remain always among the portraits of my friends.’
Reference to Mr. Corcoran
brings to mind what is probably the only genuine affaire de coeur
It is a romantic story, known only to a few of the old man's friends, and may be referred to now without offence to any one.
When the ex-senator entered the House
he was a suitor for the hand of Corcoran
's only daughter and the heiress to the great estate of the philanthropist, which estate, however, was a very small one in those days compared to the millions comprised in it at this time.
was a gallant and persistent suitor, and as the father stood aloof there was a good prospect that Miss Corcoran
would honor the brilliant North Carolinian
with her heart and hand.
Another figure intruded in the way, however.
, afterwards a famous prisoner of war, had for his private secretary a young man named Eustis
, of Louisiana
, a brother of the present ambassador to France
The private secretary
was not in the least disheartened by the rivalry of the popular representative.
He belonged to one of the first families of his State, and admitted no superiority.
The struggle between the two Southerners was long and generous, and when the lady finally decided in favor of the Louisianian, the North Carolinian was generous and hearty in his congratulations.
's disappointment was keen and lasting was not to be discovered by any outward display, but that the wound was too deep to be healed was proven by the fact that he remained and will die a bachelor.
It is said that this affair had much to do with the recklessness exhibited by Clingman
in the war, and which led to his rapid promotion to the rank of general.
“Let us make this a Thermopylae,” said Clingman
to Joe Johnston
, when they were surrounded by Sherman
“I am not in the Thermopylae business,” retorted Johnston
, and surrendered forthwith.