Project Gutenberg's Old Times in Dixie Land, by Caroline E. Merrick

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Title: Old Times in Dixie Land
       A Southern Matron's Memories

Author: Caroline E. Merrick

Release Date: November 24, 2012 [EBook #41475]

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8


Produced by The Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images
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Caroline E. Merrick




A Southern Matron’s Memories








Copyright, 1901,




I. Cottage Hall 5
II. Old Times 11
III. Home Life 17
IV. Rumors of Our Civil War 24
V. My Daughter Laura’s Diary 37
VI. War Memories: How Becky Coleman Washed Hester Whitefield’s Face 48
VII. War Memories: The Story of Patsy’s Garden. 59
VIII. How Woman Came to the Rescue 69
IX. Miss Vine’s Dinner Party and its Abrupt Conclusion 83
X. Our Federal Friends and the Colored Brother 104
XI. Laura’s Death in the Epidemic of ’78 116
XII. A First Speech and Some Noted Women 124
XIII. Frances Willard 141
XIV. Sorrow and Sympathy 153
XV. Becky Speaks Up in Meeting in the Interests of Morality 164
XVI. Mrs. Julia Ward Howe and the Blessed Colored People 171
XVII. Nervous Prostration and a Venerable Cousin 186
XVIII. Enter—as an Episode—Mrs. Columbiana Porterfield 197
XIX. The Southern Woman Becomes a “Clubable” Being 212
XX. The Best is Yet To Be 229



[Pg 5]





I have not written these memoirs entirely for the amusement or instruction of my contemporaries; but I shall feel rewarded if I elicit thereby the interest and sympathy which follows an honest effort to tell the truth in the recollections of one’s life—for, after all, truth is the chief virtue of history. My ancestry may be of as little importance in itself as this book is likely to be after the lapse of a few years; yet it is satisfactory to know that your family is respectable,—even if you cannot prove it to be so ancient that it has no beginning, and so worthy that it ought to have no end. I am willing, however, that my genealogy should be investigated; there are books giving the whole history; and it is surely an innocent and praiseworthy pride—that of good pedigree.

I was born November 24th, 1825, at our plantation home, called Cottage Hall, in the parish of East Feliciana, in the State of Louisiana. My father was a man[Pg 6] of firmness and of courage amounting to stoicism. He appeared calm and self-possessed under all circumstances. He ruled his own house, but so judicious was his management that even his slaves loved him.

Though I was very young when my mother died, I can remember her and the great affection manifested for her by the entire family. While not realizing the importance of my loss, I knew enough to resent the coming of another to fill her place. My father said he wanted a good woman who could see that his family of six children were properly brought up and educated. His nephew, Dr. James Thomas, introduced him to Miss Susan Brewer, who he thought would fill all these requirements. The marriage was soon arranged, and I was brought home, to Cottage Hall, by my eldest sister, with whom I had been living. The other children had laid aside their mourning and I was informed that I also had new dresses; but I declined to wear them or to call the new mistress of the household by the name of “Mother,” which had been freely given her by the rest of the family. When my father lifted me from the carriage he said: “My child, I will now take you to your new mother.” As he kissed me affectionately I turned away and said: “I am not your child, and I have no mother now.” I have never forgotten the sad look he gave me nor the tenderness he manifested toward my waywardness as he took me in his arms and carried me into the house. I was a troublesome little girl with an impetuous temper; perhaps it was on this account that he often said: “This golden-haired darling is the dearest little one in the house—and the most exacting.” My[Pg 7] father had a vein of quaint humor and abounded in proverbial wisdom. I have heard him say, “Yes, I have a very bad memory—I remember what should be forgotten.”

We often had friends and schoolmates to spend the day or night at Cottage Hall; but when these visits were returned we were always accompanied by our married sister or some equally responsible chaperone. We complained much of this rigid rule, yet I now think it was a wise exaction that every night should find us sheltered under the home roof. My father had no patience with the innocent flirtations of young people; he thought such conduct implied a lack of straight-forward honesty which was inexcusable. Few men can understand the temptations of a young girl’s environment, which sometimes cause her to make promises in good faith that cannot be carried out, and my father had no pity on one who so doted on general admiration that she was unwilling to contract her life into a simple home with one true, brave heart. Such an one, he thought, deserved to become a lonely old maid and hold a pet dog in her arms, with never a child of her own, because she had turned away from her highest vocation—and all for pure vanity and folly.

My stepmother was a gifted woman. She was born in Wilbraham, Massachusetts, in 1790, and died July 25th, 1876. She had come South by the advice of Dr. Wilbur Fisk, and was instrumental in bringing into Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana over sixty accomplished teachers, she herself having been at the head of successful schools in New York, Baltimore, Tuscaloosa and[Pg 8] Washington. The calling of teaching she gave up when she married my father, but the cause of education in the South was greatly promoted by her influence, for which reason she has been compared to Mary Lyon of New England.

On one occasion, when my stepmother had a large party of Northern people at tea, they began praising the products of their own State and depreciating those of Louisiana. My childish anger was stirred, and I asked our guests why they had come down here if they had everything so much nicer and better in Massachusetts? I said no more, for a maid was called and I was sent to bed, retiring with indignation while the company laughed spiritedly at my impertinence. One of my sisters wrote me later, “Ma has no occasion to teach you how to manage, for you were born with a talent for ruling—whether wisely or not time will show.”

Cottage Hall was five miles from Jackson, Louisiana. My father was for many years trustee of the college there which afterward became Centenary College of the Methodist Episcopal Church South. His death occurred in 1849, and I have preserved a eulogy delivered by President Augustus Baldwin Longstreet during the Commencement exercises of the year. From this I transcribe a few sentences:

“A sad announcement will be anticipated by those who have been long in the habit of attending these occasions when they cast their eyes over the Board of Trustees and see that the seat of Captain David Thomas is vacant. Never since the foundation of the College was [Pg 9]it so before. He was present at the birth of this institution; he saw it in all its promising and dispiriting visitations; and while it had no peculiar claims upon him, he watched over it with parental solicitude. At length he rejoiced in its commitment to the care of his own church; and under the management of my predecessor, he saw it assume an honorable rank among the kindred institutions of our Southern clime. His head, his heart and purse were all at its service. He was anticipating the events of this week with hopeful gratification when, within forty-eight hours of the time he expected to mingle his counsels with his colleagues, it pleased God to cut him down. Were our griefs always proportioned to our losses, his wife, his children, the orphan, the poor, the church, the trustees, the faculty, and the students would all have raised one wild shriek at the twang of the archer’s bow which laid him low. Were the joys of friendship proportioned to the good fortune of a friend, we should all rejoice and mingle our voices in loud hallelujahs that death had snatched him away; for that he has gone direct from earth to heaven none can doubt who knew him. I find it hard to restrain the starting tears; but this is my weakness. We all should rejoice, but this our nature will not permit; yet we must testify our respect for his memory.”

Then Judge Longstreet read the resolutions of the Board of Trustees of Centenary College, which had been placed in his hands. This extraordinary man was a dear friend of our family, and every child in the house enjoyed his visits. He played on a glass flute[Pg 10] for us, and it was a choice privilege when we were allowed to hear him read from his “Georgia Scenes” about the comical doings of Ned Brace and Cousin Patsy. His peculiarities bordered on eccentricity and his wit was inimitable and irresistible.

Mrs. Longstreet was a lovely woman of whose presence one never wearied. She wore the daintiest of white caps, and seemed in the eyes of all like the angel she was. Of Byron, Walter Scott, and historical literature she could give pages from memory with great expression and in the sweetest voice imaginable. She was ideally sweet even in her most advanced years—a vision which once seen can never be forgotten.



[Pg 11]



On a clear spring morning more than fifty years ago, Cousin Antoinette and I sat on the front porch of Cottage Hall ready for a ride and waiting for the stable boy to bring up our ponies. We were in the act of mounting when my father appeared and inquired where we were going.

“We shall not take a long ride, papa. We are not going anywhere, and shall return in good time for breakfast.”

“You will do nothing of the kind. You have no brother here to ride with you, and it is improper for two young ladies to be seen on the public road alone so early in the morning.” He then ordered the horses back to the lot. We were obliged to submit to his authority without protest, though I was ready to say, “There is a word sweeter than ‘mother, home, or heaven,’ and that word is ‘liberty.’” Contrast this with the freedom of the modern girl on her bicycle!

Once when I left the schoolroom on account of a disagreement with the governess, my stepmother thought my father should require me to return and apologize. “No,” he replied, “she elects her own life and must abide by her choice; she shall not be coerced.” I was[Pg 12] never afterward a student in any schoolroom, though at this time only in my thirteenth year. I had been in class with girls three or four years older than myself, and was considered quite mature in person and mental development. I early ascertained that girls had a sphere wherein they were expected to remain and that the despotic hand of some man was continually lifted to keep them revolving in a certain prescribed and very restricted orbit. When mild reproofs failed there were always other curbs for the idiot with eccentric inclinations.

Yet it was with my father’s full consent, even by his advice, that at fifteen years of age I married Edwin Thomas Merrick, for he thought I could not enter too soon upon woman’s exclusive path, and be marching along towards woman’s kingdom with a companion in the prime of a noble manhood. I was indebted for my “bringing up” to the young man I married. He was more than twice my age, and possessed many times over my amount of wisdom. In one of Mr. Merrick’s love-letters, written in 1839, alluding to a remark of mine on the absurdity of a “young thing like me” being companionable for a man of thirty years, he says: “Is it not ‘ridiculously absurd’ for a young lady who talks seriously of moving an island in the lake of Windermere to suppose she is not old enough to marry anybody? I have been reared in the cold North where mind and person come to maturity slowly; you in the sunny South where the flower bursts at once into full luxuriance and beauty.” Lover-like, he compliments me by continuing: “I have never discovered in you anything to remind me of the disparity of our ages;[Pg 13] but, on the contrary, I have found a maturity of judgment, correctness of taste and extent of accomplishments which cause me to feel that you have every acquisition of a lady of twenty; and I have been happier in your society than in that of any other human being.”

My husband, the nephew of my stepmother, was born July 9th, 1809, in Wilbraham, Massachusetts. He was an advocate and jurist, served as district judge of the Florida parishes, and was twice elected chief justice of the Supreme Court of Louisiana.

The entire household at Cottage Hall was devoted to “Cousin Edwin,” as he was called after our Southern fashion of claiming kinship with those we like. I remember that when Mrs. Lafayette Saunders heard that Mrs. Thomas had made this match, she replied: “It is a pity she did not do the same for all the family, for she surely has made a good one for Caroline!” For a year and a half Mr. Merrick and I had seen much of each other and had exchanged frequent letters, many of which have been sacredly preserved to the present time. Bishop John C. Keener, who was his lifelong friend, said of him at the time of his death: “Judge Merrick was always a bright, delightful person in his family and with his acquaintances and friends. He was a scholar, and was familiar with several modern languages, especially French and German. He had an investigating mind, loved to explore the recent wonders of science, and the doctrine of evolution he accepted. Few men had rounded their career into a grander expression of all the high qualities which concur in the useful citizen and the influential public magistrate.[Pg 14] He was an incorruptible and capable judge, which is the most important and admirable character in the official constituency of government.”

The Law Association of New Orleans, in their tribute to his memory, said to him—using his own words at a like meeting in honor of Chief Justice Eustis: “His judicial opinions show a comprehensive intellect, cultivated by long study, and familiarized with the sentiments of the great writers and expounders of the law. They were, as became them, more solid than brilliant, more massive than showy. They are like granite masonry, and will serve as guides and landmarks in years to come. He was domestic, temperate and simple in his habits; modest, patient, punctual, and exceedingly studious. In his family relations he was a good husband, a wise and loving father. He loved his fellow-men and enjoyed the success of others. He encouraged young men, and with his brethren of the bar he was always considerate, courteous and generous.”

Thus he received a beautiful and eloquent tribute which dealt with both his public and private life.

In his home Mr. Merrick was always gentle and lovable without the least apparent pride. He would entertain with the greatest simplicity the youngest child in the house; and this fact reminds me of a little boy who deposited with tears a bouquet at his lifeless feet. To the inquiry “Who sent them?” he replied: “I brought them. For three years he has given me money to buy all my school books, and I am so sorry he is dead!” In a letter my daughter-in-law had written me while we were in Virginia during one of his last summers[Pg 15] on earth, she asked: “Does father still roam over the hills gathering flowers for you to wear as he used to do?” Even in his old age his cheerfulness, his equipoise and sweetness never deserted him.

In regard to early marriages, I cannot, in view of my own experience and long life of contentment and domestic happiness, say aught unfavorable, though there is another side to the question and modern custom tends increasingly towards marriage at a later period. As it is true that the progeny of immature plants and animals do not equal in vigor and capacity for endurance the offspring of fully developed specimens, so human beings who desire to establish a home and intend to bring up a family, should not be children, but full-grown, matured men and women; yet, all things else being equal, it is surely better they should unite to make up a perfect life before the season of youth has passed away, and the man became blasé, the woman warped. Men are much concerned about our sex and the duties and peculiar functions belonging thereto. It is my opinion that they too need some instruction in regard to the exercise and regulation of their own relations and responsibilities toward the future welfare of the race. They have decided that brain work is detrimental to the full development of the organization of the female; but they do not worry over the effects of tobacco, whisky and certain vile habits upon the congenital vigor of both boys and girls. Fathers and medical men ought to look well to the hygienic duties of their own sex; then both sexes would be born with better capacity for life and growth, and the poor mother would not be obliged[Pg 16] to spend so much care and trouble in rearing the offspring of debilitated manhood. Nature does not work in a hurry. She is patient, persistent and deliberate, never losing sight of her own great ends, and inexorable as to her rights.

If study could check and thwart a child’s growth Margaret D’Ossoli would have been a case of arrested development instead of a large-souled woman. It was her father who kept her little head all day over Greek and Latin exercises at the age of seven years, when she should have been playing with her dolls and romping in the fresh outdoor air. It was her father, M. Necker, who trained Madame de Stael into a woman whom the great Napoleon hated and even feared so much that he insulted her childless wifehood by telling her that what France needed was mothers, and sent her into banishment.

It is useless to get up a lamentation that the race will die out and children be neglected because woman is going to college and becoming informed and intellectual. Nature will take care that she keeps to her principal business, which is to become a willing (or unwilling) medium to continue the species.



[Pg 17]



My home during my early married life was in the town of Clinton, La. While I never coveted the ownership of many slaves, my comfort was greatly promoted by the possession of some who had been carefully trained to be good domestics, and who were given to me by my father on my marriage. I always liked to go into the kitchen, but sometimes my cook, who had been for twelve years in training, scorned my inexperienced youth, would say emphatically, “Go inter de house, Miss Carrie! Yer ain’t no manner er use heah only ter git yer face red wid de heat. I’ll have dinner like yer wants it. Jes’ read yer book an’ res’ easy till I sen’s it ter de dining-room.” I like just as much to go into the kitchen to-day, and am accounted a “born cook,” by my family, being accredited with a genius for giving those delicious and elusive flavors that are inspirations and cannot be taught. The artist cook burns neither food nor fingers, is never hurried or flurried, and does not reveal in appearance or manner that the table is indebted to her handicraft.

The common idea of tyranny and ill-usage of slaves was often reversed in my case, and I was subject at times to exactions and dictations of the black people[Pg 18] who belonged to me, which now seem almost too extraordinary and incredible to relate. I made periodical visits to our plantation in Point Coupe parish, over fifty miles distant from Clinton. En route I would often desire my coachman to drive faster, and he would do so for the moment, then would fall back into the old pace. If I remonstrated he would say: “I’s ’sponsible fer dese yeah horses, an’ dey got ter fotch us back home, an’ I ain’t er gwine ter kill ’em gettin’ ter whar we gwine ter; an’ I’d tell Marse Edwin de same thing if he was heah.”

Gardening has always greatly claimed my heart and time. I have taken prizes at horticultural exhibits, and have been no little vainglorious in this last year of the century to be able to show the public the only blooming century-plant in New Orleans, or indeed in the State, so far as I know, and for whose blossoming I have been waiting thirty years. There is a “mild and gentle” but indissoluble sympathy between the human soul and the brown earth from which we have sprung, and to which we shall return. There is no outward influence that can be compared to that of living, growing, blooming things. The resurrections of the springtime cause an epidemic of gardening fever that prevails until intenser sunshine discourages exertions. When buds are bursting and color begins to glow on every bush and trellis I do not see how any one can be wholly miserable. The great season of hope and promise stirs into fruitfulness of some sort the blood that has been marking time for many years. This ever renewed, undiscouraged passion of making the earth produce seems a proof that[Pg 19] man’s natural occupation is husbandry. He keeps at it through love as well as necessity, and every springtime he, as little subdued as nature, renews the contest. It is his destiny.

Therefore it is hardly a matter for surprise that my first-born child appealed so strongly to my love of growing things that the office of my nurse was a mere sinecure, for my boy was always in my arms—perhaps the more that I had been cut off prematurely from my dolls. With every moment devoted to his interests he became such a precocious wonder that all the servants prophesied: “Dat chile’s not long for dis worl’, Miss Calline!” I was not disturbed, however, by these mournful predictions, knowing how much time and patience had been invested in his baby education. When I look back on this period I excuse myself on account of my youth, yet at the same time I pity myself for my ignorance. The experience I bought was high-priced.

The heavy and exacting responsibilities of a slaveholder did not rest upon me with a lightness commensurate with my years. During my annual visits to the plantation I was not sure of uninterrupted rest even at night, for I never could refuse an interview to any of the negroes who called upon me. I observe that my diaries of those days are full of notes of my attendance upon sick servants. When President Lincoln issued his proclamation of freedom to our slaves I exclaimed: “Thank heaven! I too shall be free at last!”—forgetful of the legal disabilities to which white women of these United States are yet in bondage.

In the year 1851 I made my first trip to the North.

[Pg 20]While visiting in Ohio, my husband said: “I think a little longer stay here will cure you of your anti-slavery principles;” but I rejected with scorn the idea that I would allow my personal comfort to bias my judgment; though I had to admit that one of my own trained “darkies” was superior “help” to any that I had, so far, encountered. My diary of the day records: “I find the children here are set to work as soon as they are able ‘to do a turn’ or go on an errand, and are kept steadily at it until they grow up, run away, or die. Dear little ‘Sis Daisy’ in this house is running constantly all day long and her little fat hands are broader than mine, from grasping things too large and heavy for so small a child to handle. She drops to sleep sometimes in the big chair or on the lounge in my room. I cover her with my dress and don’t know anything about her when she is called—happy to be sure she is getting some rest. Night must be a blissful time for the overworked hired girls of the North, as they know nothing of the many restful stops our self-protected blacks allow themselves ‘between times.’”

Slavery had many aspects. On the occasion of my sister Ellen’s marriage I was visiting at my father’s home. Julia, my nurse, was of course deeply interested in the preparations; and at one time when she wished to be a spectator, my nine-months-old baby declined to oblige her by going to sleep. I happened to follow her into a darkened room where she had taken the child to be rocked, and was just in time to witness a heavy blow administered in anger to the little creature. In an instant the child was in my arms. “Go out of my[Pg 21] sight,” I said, “you shall never touch her again. You are free from this hour!” At the end of the week I was seated in the carriage with the baby on my lap, about to return home. Julia stood awaiting orders. I gave her none. “Shall I get in?” she finally asked. “You are free,” said I, “do as you please.” She hesitated until the coachman peremptorily ordered her to get in and let him drive on.

I held the child during the long drive to Clinton, though I was very tired, and installed another nurse as soon as I reached home, ignoring Julia’s existence. She had her home in the yard and her meals from my table as before. One of the other servants finally came to me saying: “I declare, Miss Calline, Julia goin’ to die if you doan’ giv’ her somethin’ ter do. She doan’ eat nothin’. Can’t yo set her ter washin’?” “She may wash for herself or for you if she wishes,” I replied; “she is free!” At the end of two weeks Julia threw herself at my feet in a deluge of tears begging to be forgiven and to be allowed to nurse her baby again. I gave it back to her; but the child had turned against her, and it was several days before the old relations were restored. There were afterward no similar ruptures, but Julia always resented the slightest reproof or adverse criticism administered to that child by parent or teachers.

At twenty I was the mother of three children, born in Clinton, Louisiana. My last and youngest came twelve years later. When my friends remarked upon the late arrival I informed them that he had come in answer to special prayer, like Hannah’s of old, so that[Pg 22] my husband might have a child to comfort his old age when the others were all settled in homes of their own.

Children are our treasure-idols; we are joined to them by our heartstrings. We spend anxious days and sleepless nights soothing their cries and comforting their wailings, and we rejoice in our power to cherish and nourish them into a full and happy life by any sacrifice of ourselves. God pity the desolate little ones who come into the world unwelcomed, and grow up in loveless homes! When in the great yellow fever epidemic of 1878 I lost my eldest daughter, my good children, David and Lula, gave me their baby Bessie to comfort my sorrow. She was my own for four years. I was in the habit of inviting my cousin, Miss Carrie Brewer, to come regularly to instruct and play with her, making the visits a recreation for both. In this manner one of the most successful teachers of the kindergartens of this city began her development, and thus my interest in systematic child culture was inaugurated.

Various children certainly require various management. Their education cannot begin too soon. The Froebel system of kindergarten teaching has usually a salutary influence on troublesome little folks, and is deserving of the increasing attention it is receiving. It is only in these latest days of the century that the initiatory period before school-life begins has had any worthy recognition.

Mr. Merrick and I belonged to the New Orleans Educational Society. I was chairman of a committee which was requested to make a report of its views on the meeting of June 4th, 1884. Shortly after handing in[Pg 23] this report—which it had been thought proper a man should read—we attended a special meeting for the annual election of officers. When the balloting began, I found I was not to be allowed any part in this matter, though paying the same dues ($5.00) as the men, and a working member of a committee. In my disgust I said: “I always thought that a vote in political affairs was withheld from woman because it is not desirable for her to come in contact with the common rabble lest her purity be soiled. She should never descend into the foul, dusty arena of the polling booth; but here in Tulane Hall where we are specially invited, in the respectable presence of many good men—some of them our ‘natural protectors’—it is not fair; it is as unjust as it would be for me to invite a party to dinner and then to summon half of them to the table while the other half are required to remain as spectators only of the feast to which all had had the same call.” After that I attended no other meeting of the Educational Society, and requested my husband to discontinue paying my dues.



[Pg 24]



Mr. Merrick was elected chief-justice of the Supreme Court of Louisiana in the year of 1855. I went with him to New Orleans for that winter and lived at the old St. Louis hotel, taking my maid with me, but leaving my children at home in the care of their grandmother. In a letter dated May 11th, 1856, my husband writes: “I bought a house yesterday, at public auction, which I think will do very well for us, but it will cost a good deal to make it as comfortable as our home at Clinton. The property is in Bouligny, a little out of the city, where we can keep our horses. There is a plank road to the city and the railroad station will be near the door. It is an old-fashioned French house built upon brick walls and pillars, with a gallery in front and rear. I send you a plan of it and a sketch of the situation. You will surely be pleased with the place after it is arranged. I dined with Mr. Christian Roselius yesterday and he congratulated me on the purchase; says it is delightful to live out of town. Bouligny is in the city of Jefferson, almost half a mile above Washington Street. There are six fireplaces in the house, and if Aunt Susan does not like any of those large rooms below we will finish off one above or[Pg 25] build one for her. The girls will go to school in the city by the cars.”

We had done some house-hunting the winter before, and I was by no means sure I should like living out of town. In his next letter Mr. Merrick said: “I do not think you had better come down until you have somewhat recovered from your disappointment. I have read your letter while my colleagues are reading opinions, and now I take some of the precious time of the State to try to console you. The more I see of the house and its neighborhood the better I like it. You think it is an isolated place up-town, still uninhabited. Well, in twenty years everything will be different, and while I have you and the children in the house, it will be all right. Therefore, you must dry up your tears and be happy.”

It is evident that the home chosen was not such as I should have selected; but a residence in it for nearly half a century has made it very dear, filled as it is with precious memories of those I have loved and lost. So extensive are the surrounding grounds, abounding in flowers, fruit-trees and gardens, that it has been called “the Merrick Farm.” Now that Napoleon Avenue is built up with elegant residences, this large square with its spacious, old-fashioned, double French cottage presents a comfortable, unique appearance in the midst of its modern environment.

So, in November, 1856, I removed from Clinton to New Orleans. In a letter written to Mr. Merrick during the distresses of dismantling the old home, I said: “If it please heaven to give us a long life I hope it may[Pg 26] never be our misfortune to move many times.” Heaven seemed to have been propitious to my wish, for here I am in the same loved home, chosen without my consent, but where I expect to fold my willing hands and be made ready for my final resting place.

I do not enter upon the subject of the civil war with a disposition either to justify or condemn; and it is with reluctance that I revert to a question that has been settled forever by fire and blood, and whose adjustment has been accepted even by the vanquished. But as this period came so vitally into my life, these recollections would be incomplete without it; besides, personal records are the side-lights of history and, in their measure, the truest pictures of the times. Years enough have elapsed to make a trustworthy historical perspective, and intelligent Americans should now be able to look upon the saddest war that ever desolated a land without favor or prejudice and to use conditions so severely cleared of the great evil of slavery as stepping-stones to our freedom from all further national mischief.

It must be remembered that the South was not a unit in regard to secession. The Southwest was largely a Whig area, and in the election of 1860 this element voted for Bell and Everett under the standard: “The Union, the Constitution and the Enforcement of Law.” It has always been a question whether secession would have carried could it have been put to the test of a popular vote in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas and Tennessee; for whatever may have been personally believed respecting the right of secession, it is probable the majority of Whigs and some Democrats doubted its[Pg 27] expediency. The most solemn, heart-breaking hour in the history of the States was that in which men, shaken with sobs, signed the ordinance which severed them from the Union. Up to that hour the fight by the press had been bitter. But when the fate of the State was sealed, the Stars and Stripes lowered and the State flag run up in its place, almost every man, irrespective of opinions, accepted its destinies, shouldered his musket and marched to the front—where he stayed until a bullet, sickness or starvation emptied his place in the ranks, or until the surrender of Lee at Appomattox.

Many Southern men said: “Never give up the United States flag; let us settle our difficulties under it.” On a Fourth of July one of our neighbors illuminated his house and decorated it with that flag. He was entirely unmolested. We were kinder in that instance to Union people among us than the Yankees sometimes were to “copperhead traitors” at the North. A very few Union men among us went over the other side of the Mason and Dixon line; a few more remained quietly at home, under great stress of public opinion, but gave of their substance, and usually their sons, to the Confederate cause. General Banks said, in his occupation of the city, “I could put all the Union men in New Orleans in one omnibus.”

This was a season of great anxiety and perplexity. After the war became inevitable it may be said that no woman wavered in her allegiance to the Southern cause. Our boys clamored to be allowed to enlist. From Northern relatives came letters wailing: “The[Pg 28] war cry is abroad; blood is to be spilled, the nation is to be involved in the bitterest of all wars. It may be that your son, David, and one of my boys may meet in deadly conflict. And when we have cut each other’s throats, destroyed commerce, ruined cities, demoralized the people, outraged humanity, what have we gained? Nothing! nothing! Would to God that some Washington might arise and stay the deadly strife, save the country from shame and disgrace in the eyes of the world.”

On the other side was asserted: “We have nothing else to do but to fight. No door is open to us. Our position as freemen, our all is at stake. Without slavery the best sugar plantation in Louisiana would be worthless. The British thought our forefathers were wrong. We have ten times the cause for revolt which they had. Constitutional rights are invaded. We shall and must succeed.”

Our son David, then in his seventeenth year, was at Centenary College, La., when hostilities began. As he saw his comrades leaving in order to join the army he became very impatient to do likewise. In a letter of April 26, 1861, replying to his urgings, I wrote: “I know you will not think us unkind in asking you to continue your college duties. You have ever been true and filial without having it exacted. Persist in these relations, my dear boy. Write us freely and tell us in perfect confidence whatever you think and feel. Do not act hastily. We do not refuse your request but wish you to wait for further advice. You have no wife and children, but you have parents and sisters to fight[Pg 29] for (I don’t count little Eddie). I know you are patriotic and are willing to make sacrifices for the sake of your country, but you must learn much before you go into the army.

“27th, afternoon.—Father has come in and says Vice-President Alexander Stephens writes to President Davis that there are plenty of men—as many soldiers as are now wanted; and this is good news. With Virginia added to the Southern Confederacy we ought to carry the day. It is a pity the border States are so dilatory. Try to be content where you are until your turn comes. Your father says it will come, sure and fast, and you know his judgment is infallible. Last night I went to the Military Fair for the benefit of the soldiers.”

War is the same the world over, and the women are always heroically bearing their share of its responsibilities. I see it announced in this morning’s paper (January 1st, 1900) that Adelina Patti and the Duchess of Marlborough are to appear at an entertainment at Covent Garden in aid of the English fund for officers’ wives and families, called for by the present war in South Africa. It has been noted that after the States seceded a Union woman could not be found in the entire South. However that may be, I am told on authority that while Jackson, Miss., was burning and being pillaged by troops whose horses were festooned with women’s clothes, General Sherman was appealed to by a Southern woman. “Well, madam,” said he, “don’t you know that the Southern women and the Methodist Church North are keeping up this war?”

[Pg 30]On June 1st, 1861, I find in one of my letters to my brother: “David is at home. We are willing to give him to our country. His father spares no trouble or expense to fit him for a soldier’s duty. He has a drill-master who instructs him in military science during the day, and drills him with the ‘State Rights Guards’ every night. This Frenchman, whose name I cannot spell, says in two weeks more he will be equal to a captain’s duties; but his father says he must understand the movements of a brigade, battalion and regiment, as well as that of company drill; he must know something and become qualified for everything; so I think he wishes him to have a commission. He is the sole representative of our immediate family. I fear for him, his youth is against him—he should be twenty-one instead of seventeen—though this will not disqualify him in the volunteer service if he is competent. He will go whenever called.”

Thus my young son left me for the army in Virginia where he served until incapacitated by an extraordinary wound through the head received at Seven Pines while a member of the staff of Gen. Leroy Stafford.

After this my brother went into an artillery company as first lieutenant, and I went to the Myrtle Grove plantation to take leave of him. It was during my temporary absence that New Orleans fell into Federal possession, which fact caused me to spend the whole period of the war with my family on the Atchafalaya river at this plantation, having only occasional visits from my husband, who found it necessary to take the greater portion of his slaves to a safer place in another[Pg 31] part of the state. His own liberty was also threatened, and since one of his colleagues, Judge Voorhies, had been taken prisoner and detained away from his family and official business, it was desirable that Judge Merrick should incur no such risk.

When Louisiana seceded from the Union many thought that no blood would be spilled; that the Yankees would not fight, and would never learn to bear arms. But this was not Mr. Merrick’s opinion, nor that of many others. The men we called Yankees had fought bravely for their own independence and gained it, and they would fight if necessary again; we should see our soil dug up and earthworks made on our own secluded plantations.

I left my New Orleans home furnished with every comfort, but have never since seen it in that perfect condition. Under General Ben Butler, a public sale was made of the contents of the dwelling, stables and outhouses for the benefit of the United States. Mrs. J. Q. A. Fellows told me she counted thirteen wagon loads of furniture taken out, and had she known me then as she afterwards did, she would have saved many valuable things for me. I owned an excellent miscellaneous library, a new piano, valuable carriages, pictures, china and cut glass—the acquisition of twenty-five years, belonging to me personally who had done nothing to bring on the hostilities between the sections. I was informed that my carriage was appropriated by a Federal officer for his own use.

It was not long before the predictions of my husband were realized by General Banks’ invading our retreat[Pg 32] with the purpose of investing Port Hudson in the rear, Farragut meanwhile was trying to force a passage past its guns on the Mississippi river. While Gen. Banks’ command was in transit we were in daily and hourly contact with the troops. When Brig.-Gen. Grover ascertained that my household consisted of women alone, he had his tent pitched very near the dwelling, informing me himself that he did this to secure our safety, and assuring me that we should be unmolested inside the enclosure of our dooryard and the lawn bordering in front on the Atchafalaya river. To this end three men were detailed to act as a guard. I had then a family consisting of two daughters, Laura and Clara, their baby brother Edwin and the two Misses Chalfant and Miss Little, who were my guests for a long time.

We were abundantly furnished with the necessaries of life, and had a bountiful supply of vegetables besides the products of our dairy and poultry yard. Lacking new books to read and mail to bring us letters, newspapers or magazines, there yet came into our lives an intenser interest in what was before us so constantly—this war between the North and the South; and in one way or another everybody, white and black, man, woman and child, took a more or less active part in carrying it on.

A letter from Mrs. Mary Wall gives the following: “I hear my son Benjamin has gone to the war, Willie too, and Bowman has joined the ‘Hunter Rifles.’ There is nothing talked of here but war. God help me, but it is hard! I nursed these boys and they are part of myself; life would be utterly barren without them.[Pg 33] But I cannot keep them, nor say a word to stay them from defending their country; but I think it will kill me. I should be better off without children in this extremity.

“What do you think the North intends? Is it to be a war of extermination? Have you read Helper’s book? He says, ‘Go out of the Union to-day and we will scourge you back to-morrow, and make the banks of the Mississippi one vast sepulchre, but you shall give up your slaves.’

“Christians ought to pray constantly that the great Omnipotent may help us. We cannot fathom God’s plans. I am ready to let my negroes go if the way opens, but I do not see that it is my duty to set them free right here and now, though the time may be approaching for them to emerge from their captivity. God’s will is just and good. Oh for perfect reliance on His promises to all who love and serve Him!”

Those who were a part of ante-bellum affairs will remember how earnestly serious-minded and conscientious slaveholders discussed the possibility of gradual emancipation as advocated by Henry Clay. The negroes were in their possession by inheritance and by the customs and laws of the land in which they were born. The slaves were not only a property which had come to them as a birthright, but also a responsibility which could not be laid aside except in a manner that would secure the future good of the slave, with proper consideration for what was justly due the master and his posterity in the settlement of the great question. If politicians on both sides, who cared more for party[Pg 34] control and for the money value of a negro than for the nation’s good, could have been ordered to the rear, there is little doubt but that slaveholder and abolitionist and the great American people could have been brought to weigh the subject together on its own merits, and slavery might have been abolished to the satisfaction of North and South by law instead of in a cataclysm of blood.

Those were anxious days when families were left without their male protectors and we women had only ourselves and our young children in our disquieted homes. Yet we were cheerful and marvelously comforted, drawing nearer day by day to the Almighty Father, and sleeping the sleep of the just, though often awakened by the sound of guns and to the sight of Federal blue-coats drawn up in battle-line with gleaming bayonets. There was fasting and prayer everywhere during all the long struggle. The most pathetic sight was thousands of women, children and slaves, with the few non-combatant men the army had spared, on their knees in daily union prayer-meetings, at sunrise or sunset, before the God of Battles.

Each of us sympathized with the words of Lizzie Dowdell, writing in May, 1861: “I do believe the Lord is on our side. If we fail, God have mercy on the world—for the semblance of human liberty will have fled. The enemy has men, money, horses and chariots; they are strong and boastful. Our sins may be flagrant, and we may need to be scourged with scorpions; but will God permit us to be overwhelmed?” Both sides referred their case to the Court of Heaven—as the[Pg 35] assaulted Boers are doing to-day. If they sink beneath the unlimited resources of the British, will the triumph of might now be the triumph of right and of human liberties? Three and one-half decades have softened the shadow of prejudice and the high lights of self-interest. It is well for the whole nation that slavery has been abolished and the Union preserved. How much loss will be revealed by time in the sacrifices of the rights of States against Federal encroachment, is a problem for future statesmanship. But it is certain to-day that the moral loss to the United States by the civil war will not be recovered in fifty years; while the baneful corruption of public sentiment and the ruling Administration, by reason of the late Spanish-American conflict, is sufficiently apparent to send every Christian to his knees, or to the ballot-box—the only worldly corrector of political wrongs.

We set a second table for our guard. One middle-aged man named Peter, a very young German and another—all foreigners—made up the trio. I had every delicacy within my reach provided for them, and insisted that my young ladies should see that the table was arranged tastefully, enjoining it on them that they should respond politely whenever they were spoken to. The young German on entering the yard stooped and pulled a rose which he gaily pinned on his coat. “See,” said one of the girls at the window, “that mean Yankee is taking our flowers!” “It is a good sign,” I replied, “that he will never do us any greater harm. He has a kind expression on his blond young face and in his honest blue eyes;” and this fair-faced boy[Pg 36] proved a valuable protector on many occasions. He had learned his English in the army and to our horror was terribly addicted to profanity. Instead of the ordinary response to one of our remarks he would come out with “The hell, you say!” even when spoken to by one of the girls. Nevertheless when at last these faithful enemy-friends took up their line of march, we were friendly enemies, and regretfully saw them depart.



[Pg 37]



From my daughter Laura’s diary, May 21st, 1863, let me quote: “The Yankees have been passing this house all day, regiment after regiment on their way to attack Port Hudson. Two transports have also gone by on the river crowded with soldiers. Heaven protect our beleaguered men—so few against so many! A Lieutenant Francis was perfectly radiant this morning because a boat was waiting to take his regiment (the 6th New York) North, as their time is out. He was very cordial, perhaps because he has a brother in the Confederate army.

“A Dutch cavalry sergeant lingered, and for half an hour stood guard, with his drawn sword keeping away many of the vandals. He claimed to belong to the regular United States army and said his time would be up in four months when he should return ‘to de faderland,’ but he thought they would ‘vip’ us at Port Hudson. When a negro and a white man came together through the backyard for water from the cistern, with horrible oaths and imprecations he drew his sword and with the back of it struck the negro and ordered them both to leave. ‘You nigger,’ said he, ‘you hab no peesnis to enter de blantation! ve don’ vant you! you steals [Pg 38]eberyting!’ I am sorry for the poor deluded negroes who flock after this army.

“We were all in the parlor this evening when five Yankee quartermasters came in out of the rain. ‘Old Specs,’ as we call him, was among the number. They introduced each other and then very pressingly requested me to play the ‘Bonnie Blue Flag.’ At last I complied and began to sing, though it nearly kills me to be polite to the Yanks:

“‘As long as the union was faithful to her trust,
Like friends and like brothers we were kind, we were just,
But now that Northern treachery——’

“Here I broke down, and bursting into tears, left the room with my handkerchief to my eyes. They then expressed sorrow that my feelings should have been so disturbed and sent Clara to ask me to come back. She begged so, I dried my tears and returned. Two of them engaged in a discussion with me. One said: ‘The secession vote in Louisiana was controlled and indicated nothing.’ ‘In all true republican governments,’ I answered, ‘the voice of the people is the voice of God; we do not live under an aristocracy or a monarchy.’ ‘But,’ said the man, ‘two-thirds of the people were not permitted to vote; your negroes did not go to the polls.’ ‘They are not freemen,’ I replied—‘but being a woman I know nothing’—and again the tears rushed to my eyes. Thereupon, one of them, Capt. Ives, joined in, saying: ‘The masters voted for the negroes of course, and,’ he continued, ‘it is not [Pg 39]fair—two gentlemen against one lady. I take the lady’s part.’ Then in a lower tone, but a perfectly audible one, he said: ‘For God’s sake talk of something else besides the Union and the Confederacy. I’m sick of both.’

“Mrs. Phillips, with Mrs. French, our neighbor, went down to headquarters to ask Gen. Banks for a guard. She reports that he said he would give her none, for it was the women who had brought on and now encouraged the war. Mrs. French said she only wished to be protected from insult, and from hearing such frightful profanity. ‘Madam,’ said he, ‘this war is enough to make any man swear. I swear myself.’ ‘But,’ said she, ‘I wish to spare my Christian mother, who is aged and infirm.’ ‘Well,’ said Gen. Banks, ‘I can’t make her young.’ When she told us about it I replied: ‘Banks is nearly as much of a brute as Butler himself.’

“Tues. May 22, 1863.—Capt. Callender of Weitzel’s staff and Capt. Hall of Emory’s came last night to inquire if the soldiers troubled us. They were very polite and spoke so kindly that they reminded us of Southerners. It is a pity to see such perfect gentlemen in such an army. They offered us a guard which I declined, telling them we were Southerners, so not afraid; for it galls me to be obliged to have Yankee protection. Mother has been so worried since, and Clara reproached me so severely for refusing the guard that I have wished I had done differently, and I was glad when the overseer’s big dog came and lay down before our door. I thought it was a special providence.[Pg 40] We have always heard Gen. Weitzel well spoken of; he evidently has men like himself on his staff.

“Monday, May 25, 1863.—Saturday evening our hopes of Gen. Kirby Smith being able to detain Gen. Weitzel were dashed to the ground. Two Yankees said they were all safe at Simmsport except two hundred cavalry captured by our boys; but their rear had been much worried. One of these Yankees was sick and asked permission to lie on our front gallery. Mother brought him some cold mint-tea which he at first declined, but when he saw her taste it he changed his mind and drank it. The man said afterward he was afraid she wanted to poison him till he saw her take a spoonful. Then she brought out a big arm-chair and pillows and made him as comfortable as she could. He was grateful, and stated that he was only doing his duty fighting for the old flag.

“One afternoon Sallie Miller rode past, with a Yankee officer. Shame on her! Two young lady guests on their way to Bayou Goula saw her and were indignant with any Southern girl who would ride with a Yankee in the presence of their army.

“Yesterday a quartermaster drove into the lot, breaking the gate which was locked, and going to the corn-crib. At the instance of the Missouri Yankee, propped up in the rocking-chair, we all ran out to the lot, and mother talked so to him, Clara and I assisting volubly, that he agreed to take only two wagon loads of the corn. He seemed actually ashamed for breaking our fence, and we were just in time to save the crib door by giving him the key.

[Pg 41]“We saw some soldiers driving our cattle and milch cows and calves from a field. ‘What a shame!’ said I. A chaplain I suppose, dressed in a fine black suit, who had come in to get water, replied: ‘Our object, miss, is to starve you out so that your brothers, husbands and sons will quit fighting and come home to provide bread for you. On what ground can you expect protection?’ he asked my mother. ‘Is your husband a Union man?’ ‘No, indeed!’ I struck in, ‘he is a true Southerner.’ He saw a spur hanging up, and remarked that there was a man about. Clara answered: ‘It belongs to my brother.’ Then the man said: ‘I won’t ask where he is, for you might be afraid to tell.’ ‘I am not afraid,’ replied Clara. ‘You may know as well as I that he is not here. He is in Virginia.’

“Mother remonstrated about her cows being driven off to be slaughtered; but seeing that it was useless exclaimed at last, ‘Well, take them all!’ This was too much for Asa Peabody, who seemed to be a friend to our sick soldier; he informed the lieutenant in command that he was on guard by Gen. Weitzel’s orders, and intended nothing should be taken off the place; and he turned two of our best cows back into our front yard.

“The men came continually to the cistern for drinking water. Mother said: ‘Let the water be free, I am glad to have protection for some things, but the heavens will send down more rain if the last drop is used.’ One of them observing some of the girls at the window, drained his cup and taking off his cap to them shouted: ‘Success to our cause!’ ‘To ours!’ I called back. ‘No,’[Pg 42] he said, ‘I drink to the Union. I hope to get to Port Hudson before it falls!’ One impertinent fellow asked: ‘Will you answer me one question, miss! Who have destroyed most of your property, Yankees or Rebels?’ ‘The Yankees, of course,’ I said. ‘Well, yours is an exceptional case,’ he retorted. Oh! I never saw so many soldiers and so many cannon!

“Asa Peabody was reproved by our Missourian for using profane language in the presence of ladies. He answered very contritely, ‘I’ll be damned if I will do so any more! You are right.’ He was a brave, good man. We heard of his kindness to many women along the march, and I hope our guerillas whom he so dreaded—as anybody in the world would—did not get him, for he vowed he should ‘keep his eyes peeled’ for them.

“In a recent bombardment at Port Hudson—when the spectacle was sublime—an old negro woman said she knew the world was coming to an end ‘becaze de white folks dun got so dey kin make lightnin’.’

“May 26, 1863.—A Yankee officer called yesterday evening; said he belonged to the famous (infamous, I say) Billy Wilson Zouaves, whose bad character is now wholly undeserved. We were still in the parlor when Col. Irwin, Asst.-Ad.-Gen., called, another officer with him. We tried to be civil, but I deeply feel the humiliation of enforced association with this invading enemy. However, Gen. Grover has been very considerate since he knew we are a household of women. Two wagon-masters came for corn and took what they wanted, breaking open the crib. A chaplain, Mr.[Pg 43] Whiteman, very kindly took a note from mother to Gen. Grover, and promised to intercede for her. The General came immediately, and said nothing more should be taken unless it was paid for. Mother declared she would beg her bread before she would buy it with their money; but I told her she had begged the bread of the family, which already belonged to us, by prayers and intercessions and tears enough to make it very bitter food. Some of the quartermasters have since given her statements of what has been taken from Myrtle Grove. ‘Corn we must have,’ said one man, ‘but I will leave this untouched if you will tell me where I can procure more on some other plantation.’ Mother then directed him to Tanglewood where father had an immense quantity stored, and from which place the hands had all been moved into the interior, after the large crop of cotton had been burned by our own people. When this cotton on Tanglewood was burning the negroes stood around crying bitterly; and father and mother both call it ‘suicidal policy of the Confederates’ to destroy the only ‘sinew of the war’ we have which will bring outside cash to purchase arms and other military supplies.”

It should be related that when we heard of General Banks’ being at Simmsport my daughter Clara thought we ought to send or go at once to his headquarters and ask for protection. I find the following copy of a letter which partly explains the safety accorded us by the Federal army during the period recounted.

[Pg 44]“To Major General Banks, in Command of U. S. Troops at Simmsport, La.

Dear Sir:

“I reside near the head of the Atchafalaya where it first flows out of Old River, and our male friends are all absent. We are all natives of Louisiana, and, though we cannot bid you welcome, we hope and trust we may confide in your protection and in the generosity and honor which belongs to United States officers.

“We have no valuable information to give, nor do we think you would ask or require us to betray our own people if we had it in our power. But we can promise to act fairly and honorably, and to do nothing unworthy the high character of Judge Merrick, who is the head of this family. Therefore, we expect to prove ourselves worthy of any generous forbearance you may find it in your power to extend toward defenseless women and children, who appeal thus to your sympathy and manhood; for

“‘No ceremony that to great one ’longs,
Not the King’s crown, nor the deputed sword,
The marshal’s truncheon, nor the judge’s robe,
Become them with one-half so good a grace
As mercy does.’

“Very respectfully,
Caroline E. Merrick.”

The result of this letter, which I presented in person, was the following pass:

[Pg 45]“Headquarters, Department of the Gulf,
19th Army Corps,
Simmes’ Plantation, May 19, 1863.

“Guards and Patriots:

“Pass Mr. Chalfant, Mrs. Merrick, and party, with their carriages and drivers, to their homes, near the head of the Atchafalaya.

Richd. B. Irwin,
“A. A. General.”

“Camp Clara, Jackson, Miss., May 31, 1863.—We have good water and our men are improving, but many are ill with typhoid fever”—thus my brother wrote. “The sickness enlists my deepest sympathy. The number of soldiers’ graves is astonishing. From morning until night negroes are constantly digging them for instant use. General Lovell inspected our battery the other day and said he wanted it down on the river; so just as soon as our horses arrive we are to go to work. The men are well drilled, but we lack horses and ammunition. I hear David’s regiment is at Petersburg, Va.”

In Confederate times the people were patient under the sickness in camp, and never a complaint was sent to Richmond about poor food and bad water which caused as many fatalities as powder and ball. Increased knowledge and improved methods of camp sanitation seem almost to justify the indignant protests against embalmed beef and typhoid-breeding water that have been heaped upon Congress and officers of the War[Pg 46] Department in the late Spanish-American war. One out of the four of my father’s great-grandsons who enlisted for the Spanish-American struggle lost his life in an unhealthy Florida camp before he could be sent to Cuba. It is plain to every fair-minded investigator that many of these fatalities were due to a lack of those essentials in which every housekeeping woman, by nature and training, is especially qualified. It was a relief to the minds of the mothers of the nation to learn that near the close of the late Cuban conflict a woman had been appointed on the National Military Medical Commission. It is a woman’s proper vocation to care for the sick. Men who would exclude women from the ballot-box on the plea that they only who fight ought to vote, should remember Clara Barton and Florence Nightingale who have served armies so effectually.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning said: “The nursing movement is a revival of old virtues. Since the siege of Troy and earlier we have had princesses binding wounds with their hands. It is strictly the woman’s part, and men understand it so. Every man is on his knees before ladies carrying lint; whereas if they stir an inch as thinkers or artists from the beaten line (involving more good to general humanity than is involved in lint), the very same men would condemn the audacity of the very same women.”

A young naval officer, at my dinner table, once dissented from such views which I had expressed, and of which Bishop Warren of the M. E. Church had heartily approved. “Until women,” said this young officer,[Pg 47] “furnish this government for its defense with soldiers and sailors from their own ranks they should be prohibited from voting.” “Dear sir,” I replied, “how many soldiers and sailors does this country now possess in its active service whom the women have not already furnished from their own ranks?”

The young man yielded but was not convinced, even when an eminent physician remarked that he had heard many a young mother say that she would rather march up to the cannon’s mouth than to lie down to meet her peculiar trial. He further stated that when their hour came they were always full of courage, and, in his opinion, their maternity ought to count for something to them of great value in the government.

All men in an army do not fight. No more important branch of the military service existed during the civil war than that which the women of the Confederacy controlled. They planted and gathered and shipped the crops which fed the children and slaves at home and the armies in the field; they raised the wool and cotton that clothed the soldiers and the hogs and cattle that made their meat; they spun and wove the crude product into cloth for the home and the army; their knitting needles clicked until the great surrender, manufacturing all the socks and “sweaters” and comforters which the Confederate soldier-boys possessed—our nearly naked boys toward the last, so often on the march called “Ragged Rebels.”



[Pg 48]



Among the Federal vessels stationed at Red River Landing was the Manhattan, commanded by Captain Grafton, a high-minded officer as the following incident proves. A letter from Laura Ellen to her brother David, dated at Myrtle Grove, records: “Stephen Brown, mother’s head manager on this place, has been very sick. Dr. Archer, who was stopping with us all night, went to see him, and after an examination, reported that he could do nothing to relieve him without chloroform and surgical instruments, both of which were inaccessible and out of the question; and he candidly told mother Stephen could not live twenty-four hours without an operation. Mother, heart-broken and in tears, begged the doctor to tell her to what means she could resort to save so faithful a servant. The doctor said they had everything needful on the Federal gunboats. Mother instantly determined to go to Red River Landing and appeal for help; but she wished Dr. Archer to go with her and explain the case. He objected, saying he had never held any communication with the enemy, and he did not wish to spoil his[Pg 49] record with the Confederates. But mother finally induced him to accompany her.

“It seemed to us a forlorn hope. When she started off with Dr. Archer, mother enjoined it upon us to have the best dinner that we could prepare for the officers who were to come back with her, which suggestion we took the liberty of overlooking, as we did not dream she could succeed in such an unheard-of undertaking. When she reached the Mississippi and waved her handkerchief, a tug came from the gunboat to the shore and she asked to see the commanding officer. The tug offered to take mother to the gunboat, but at first objected to the doctor going with her. Finally both went, and were received on the deck of the big warship. Captain Grafton said he feared that any surgeon or officer might be captured, and that he must have a written guarantee against that possibility before he could run such a risk. Mother told him that Captain Collins and his scouts were thirty miles distant; she could only assure him that none who came to her aid would be molested. Dr. Archer supported her opinion; but the captain declined the adventure; whereupon mother burst into tears. ‘Captain Grafton,’ she said, ‘I did not come here to teach you your duty; but I came to perform mine. Now if the negro’s life is not saved, his death will lie at your door, not mine.’ Capt. Grafton replied: ‘Madam, I don’t like you to put it that way!’ Moved by that view or her tears—he sent the tug for the captains of two other gunboats, and the three held a council of war, finally consenting that a surgeon with his assistants and the[Pg 50] necessary equipments should have leave to go provided he would himself assume the responsibility for his absence from the boat, for the military authorities would make no order about it. Thus Dr. Mitchell first came to Myrtle Grove on an errand of mercy.

“None was more surprised than mother herself when Dr. H. W. Mitchell, surgeon of the Manhattan, offered to go with her. It had been eight months since these Federal naval attachés had set foot on land, and apparently they greatly enjoyed the long drive with only a handkerchief for a flag of truce floating from the carriage window. The doctor went to the ‘Quarters’ to see Stephen, and mother flew to the kitchen and dining-room to put forth her rare culinary skill in compensation for our negligence. After dinner we had music, and Dr. Mitchell sang us many new songs, and proved to be very intelligent, entertaining and agreeable. I treated him well, too, as I was bound to do after his kindness. At dinner I had on a homespun dress trimmed with black velvet and Pelican buttons: when they went away I even gave the doctor my hand, ’though always before I had refused to shake hands with a single one of them. Not for anything on earth ‘would I have done as much previously.’”

During the many months that the U. S. gunboat Manhattan remained at Red River Landing, I saw the officers from time to time, and once a crevasse detained Dr. Mitchell for three days in our home. The friendship thus established has outlived the war and proved a source of great pleasure to me; while the sympathy[Pg 51] the doctor so kindly extended later, during the bitter reconstruction days, was a solid satisfaction and comfort, for his cultured and experienced mind comprehended both sides of the situation. Devoted to the Union, he yet expressed no inordinate desire to exterminate the South, and never said he would be glad to hang Jefferson Davis. He writes July 30, 1865: “We are all Americans. We speak one language; our flag is the same; we are citizens of the United States. It is the right spirit to recognize no section. If all should uphold the Government faithfully under which we enjoy so many blessings, internal strife in the future will be impossible.”

“Mother says,” the diary continues, “let an army be friend or foe, it takes everything it needs for its subsistence on the march, and starvation is in its track. Brig.-Gen. Grover’s Division camped for two weeks on this plantation, and the General’s own tent was pitched next to our side gate. When some of his staff were here visiting, one of them took baby Edwin in his arms and kissed him. After they had gone I scolded him for kissing a Yankee, and said I was going to tell his ‘Marse Dadles!’ He began to cry and sobbed out, ‘O Sissy, he was a good Yankee!’ They rob the corn-cribs, so it is well they carry off the negroes too. Ours, however, will not go; they have made no preparation to depart, and mother interviews them daily on the subject, but leaves them to decide whether they will ‘silently steal away,’ which is their method of disappearing. Mr. Barbre’s negroes have all gone except two, and Mr.[Pg 52] Chalfant’s and Mrs. French’s are preparing to go, so our neighbors are generally upset.”

In a letter of an earlier date Laura Ellen gives an account of Mr. Chalfant coming to me and asking advice as to how the slaves could be prevented from following the army. I had wanted to know of my neighbor if his negroes would take his word on the subject. If so, he might state to them that they might be free just where they were—that it was not necessary they should leave their homes, their little children, their household effects, tools and other “belongings” which could not be carried on the march (to say nothing of the hogs-head of sugar nearly all of them had in their cabins), their poultry, dogs, cows and horses. If it were candidly explained to them that their freedom was to be a certainty, and that they might be hired to work by their old owners, doubtless many would be convinced of the wisdom of remaining at home and taking their chances—all would depend on the confidence the negro had in the master—but they should, in all cases, be left to make their own decision—whether to go or stay. Some of the people who could read should be shown the newspapers, left by the Yankees, wherein it is urged upon the government to put the black men into the army. This should be read to them by one of their own color.

After hearing these views Mr. Chalfant was reported having said: “Mrs. Merrick has more sense about managing the negroes than any man on the river.”

However that may have been, our slaves remained on the place, and many of them and their descendants are yet in the employ of the family. It was considered[Pg 53] by some persons to be treason to the Confederacy to speak of the freedom of the slaves in their presence, as if refusal to acknowledge the emancipation act would avert its going into effect.

This attitude towards their liberty destroyed all confidence in the master’s advice, and so his negroes left him. It was several years before the emancipation of the slave was universally effected, there being secluded places into which the news of freedom percolated slowly, and where slavery existed for some time uninterrupted. In following the army parents often abandoned young children. These were given to anybody who would burden themselves with their care. In many cases the natural guardian never again appeared, and these abandoned ones were practically bond-servants until they learned how to be free of themselves.

Careworn and anxious as we were waiting news of our loved ones in the field and of the cause in which we had risked our all, we were too busy to be sad. Telegraphic communication with the center of war was often cut off for many days. During these agonizing, silent seasons the women drew nearer together, and kept busy scraping lint for the hospitals and converting every woolen dress and every yard of carpet left in the house into shirts and bedding for our boys at the front. We varied the labor of managing plantations with every species of bazaar, supper, candy-pulling and tableaux that would raise a dollar for the army. Then we got all the entertainment we could out of our daily domestic round, as I did out of Becky Coleman, one of my old servants who occasionally relieved the monotony of her[Pg 54] “daily round” by coming “to ’nquire ’bout de white folks.” It was October when she made one of these visits, but summer reigned in earth and sky. A noble avenue of black walnuts completely shaded one side of my Myrtle Grove house. The large green nuts were beginning to ripen, for when a branch swayed in the wind one would drop from time to time with such a resounding thump upon the ground that it was a matter for satisfaction when Becky seated herself on the steps of the porch without having encountered a thwack on her head from the missile-dealing trees.

“I hear singing over in the woods,” said I to Becky. “Why are you not at the meeting this evening?”

“Who? me? eh—eh—but may be yo don’ kno’ I dun got my satisfacshun down dar a while ago. I’m better off at home. Hester done got me convinced. Lemme tell you how ’twas. One Sunday ebenin’ I heard tell dar wurs gwine to be er sort er ’sperience praar-meeting down to ole Unk Spencer’s house, en es ’twan’t fer, I jes’ tuk my foot in my han’! I did, en I went dar.

“Well, ev’rything was gwine on reg’lar, en peaceable, widout no kin’ er animosity, plum till dey riz up to sing de very las’ hime. De preacher who wus er leadin’ got up den en tuk up de hime book en gin out:

“‘Ermazin’ grace how sweet de soun’
In de beleever’s year!’

“Now, yo knows yo’sef dey ain’t nothin’ tall incitin’ ’bout dat ar’ chune: you knows it; en as fer me, I was jes’ dar er stanin’ up wid de res’, wid my mouf open,[Pg 55] jes’ er singin’ fer dear life, never dreamin’ ’bout nothin’ happ’nin’, when heah cum Hester Whitfiel’—coming catter-corner ’cross from de yuther side er de house, wid her han’ h’isted up in de aar, en I ’clar fo’ de Lawd, she hit me er clip rite in my lef’ eye, en mos’ busted it clean outen my haid. It cum so onexpectedlike dat leetle mo’en I would er drap in de flo’. I jes’ felt like I wus shot! Den she had er pa’cel er big brass rings on her han’, en dey cut rite inter my meat!

“I tell yo’, ma’am, I was hurted, I jes’ seed stars, I did! so I up en tole her: ‘’Oman, ef yo got ennything ’g’inst me, why don’t you come out in de big road en gimme er fair fight? Fer Gawd-elmighty’s sake don’ go en make ’ten’ like yo happy, en bus’ my eye open dis heah way.’ Says I, ‘’Ligion ain’t got nuthin’ ter do wid no sich ’havoir; I don’ see no Holy Sperit ’bout it,’ says I. ‘’Twas jes’ de nachul ole saturn what mak’ yo’ do dat, en I jes knows it,’ says I. ‘’Ligion don’ make nobody hurt nothin’,’ says I. Yo reads de Book, Miss Calline, en yo knows I’m speakin’ de salvashun trufe, now ain’t I?

“Den all de folks cum crowdin’ ’roun’ en gethered a holt uv us, en ef dey hadn’t, I lay I woulder stretched her out dar in de flo’, fer I’m de bes’ ’oman—er long ways—en I would er had her convinced in no time. But dey all tu’ned in en baig me ter look over it, bein’ es how it happen in meetin’-time; but I tell yo, ma-am, I never look nowhars wid dat eye fer mor’n free weeks. Why, it wus so swole up en sore, I jes’ had ter bandage it wid sassyfras peth and wid slippery ellum poultices day en night, en my eye wus dat red, en[Pg 56] bloodshottened, dat I never ’spected to see daylight outen it no mo’; en I clar’ fo’ de Lawd it ain’t, got rite na’chul till yit!

“No longer’n dis very ebenin’ my ole man, Tom, says ter me: ‘I dun seed nuff trouble wid yo, Beck. You needs dem big pop eyes er yone to patch my close, en wuk wid, en I ain’t er gwine to hev no bline ’oman rown’ me,’ says he; ’en I let yo know frum dis out yo don’t go ter no mo’ praar-meetin’s, ’zaminashuns er what-cher-callums; dat’s de long en short uv it!’ says he. ‘Ef you ain’ got sense nuff ter stay away frum dar,’ says he, ‘I’ll insense yo wid my fis’.’ I knows de weight er dat han’ er hisen, en I’m gwine min’ him dis time, ennyhow;” and Becky pointed toward the cabin from whence the sound of singing was wafted on the breeze, saying, “Yes’um, I’m gwine stay away frum dar, fer er fac’!”

“Becky, is such an incident common at your prayer-meetings?” I inquired.

“Why, no, ma’am, nuthin’ like dat never happen to me befo’; yit, I ’members mighty well when Betsy Washin’ton cum thoo’—’fo’ she jined de chu’ch. ’Twas in de meetin’-house, but yo couldn’t onerstan’ one single wud de preacher wus er sayin’, fer she wus jes’ er shoutin’ es loud es she could fer who las’ de longes’—en I onertuk, fool like, to hole her; fer she wus in sich a swivit, we wus feared she’d brek loose en go inter a reg’lar hard fit, so I jes’ grabbed good holt er de ’oman, ’roun’ de wais’, es she wus er hollerin’, en er jumpin’; en when she felt de grip I fotch on her, she tu’n ’roun’, she did, en gethered my sleeve in ’tween her[Pg 57] fingers (en she is jes’ es strong es enny mule), en shore’s yore settin’ dar in dat air big cheer, en I’m er stannin’ heah, talkin’ ter yer, she gin me one single jerk, en I ’clar ter Gawd, she tore my whole sleeve outen de arm-hole, en ripped er big slit clean ’cross my coat body! Why I jes’ thought de ’oman wus gwine ter strip me start naiked, rite dar in de meetin’-house! I got dat shame I jes’ let er go, I did, en den went perusin’ roun’ ’mongst de wimmin en borryd er shawl ter kiver me up; en den I moved on todes home.

“But I mus’ let yo know de nex’ time I met up wid Betsy, I washed her face good wid what she dun. I jes’ tole her de nex’ time she got ter shoutin’ ’roun’ me she mout bre’k her neck—I wan’t gwine hole her, I wan’t gwine tech her; ‘fer,’ says I, ‘yo done gone en ’stroyed de bes’ Sunday dress I got, yo is dat,’ says I, ‘fer er fac’!’

“Den Betsy ’lowed she didn’t keer, en dat she didn’t know what she wus er doin’, but I tuk mighty good notice she never made no motion to grab onter Aunt Sally Brown’s co’se homespun gown when she tuk er tu’n er hol’in uv her. But uv co’se, I heap ruther hev my close tore dan to hev my eye busted out. But dey ain’t no need er airy one bein’ done; en I tole her so, I did dat. ‘Sholey Christians,’ say I, ‘kin ’joy dersef widout hurtin’ nobody, neither tarin’ der close!’ I up en axed her ef she eber knowed de white folks in de big house karyin’ on datterway, en ef she eber seed Miss Marthy er Miss Reeny er cuttin’ up like dat in de white folks’ meetin’-house? Well, she jes’ bust out er[Pg 58] laffiin’ in my face at dat, en she ’lowed niggahs wan’t like white folks nohow.

“‘I knows better’n dat,’ says I. ‘Fer Gawd made us all outen de dus’ er de groun’, bofe de white en de black;’ en, Miss Calline, yo’ ma uster tell me ef I ’haved mysef, en kep’ mysef clean, en never tole no lies, ner ’sturb yuther folks’ things, I wus good es ennybody, en I b’lieves it till yit; dat’s de salvashun trufe, I’m tellin’, white ’oman, it sholey is!

“But den Betsy got mad, she did, en gin me er push,—we wus walkin’ ’long de top er de levee—en I wus so aggervated dat I cum back at ’er wid er knock dat made her roll down smack inter de gully. Den she hollered so de men fishin’ unner de river bank cum er runnin’. She had don’ sprain her wris’, en ef her arm had been broke she cudn’t er made no mo’ fuss. Lemme tell yo de trufe! de very nex’ Sunday dey tu’ned us bofe outen de chu’ch case we fit, en I cayn’t go to praar-meetin’ tell I done jine ergin.”

“Well, Becky, you’ve made me forget there is a war and Yankee raids, and I reckon I’ll have to give you a cup of store-coffee for doing it.”

“Thanky, Miss Calline! I’ll be powerful ’bliged ter yo’; en I mus’ be er movin’, en pa’ch dis heah coffee fer my ole mammy’s supper, fer she’s gittin’ monshus tired of tea off dem tater chips what we has ter drink dese days.”



[Pg 59]



Our vision of the outside world of human affairs was very narrow and circumscribed in those war-times, and my seminary of five young girls was often a victim to ennui. No weekly mail, no books, no music, no new gowns from one year’s end to another.

The only vital question was: “What is the war news?” There were also no coffee, no loaf-sugar, no lemons in the house. However, with plenty of milk, eggs and butter, fresh fruit and vegetables, to say nothing of fowls galore, we survived. The girls made cake and candy, so with the abundance of open-kettle brown sugar, we diversified our daily menu with many sweet compounds.

The one unfailing source of pleasure was the garden. True, the army at Morganza would send out a raid every fortnight, when fences were broken down and destroyed: then the cows and other cattle would get in and partake of our lettuce and cabbages. But we never gave up; the negroes would drive the marauding cattle out and rebuild the fences every time they were destroyed. On one of these occasions I heard Miss Emma Chalfant say to Uncle Primus: “I shall tell on you when your people come back here; I heard you curse[Pg 60] and swear at Mrs. Merrick’s cows this morning—and you call yourself a preacher, too!” “Dese cows and dese Yankees is ’nuff to make ennybody cuss, Miss Emma,” said the negro, as he went along snapping his long whip as he drove the poor animals away from the garden.

Here I am tempted to give the true story of Martha Benton. This girl became positively exhilarated under the influence of perfume and flowers. The delectable odor of Sweet Olive—a mingled essence of peach, pineapple, and orange-flower—produced in her a frenzy of delight. She had been introduced to the exotic floral world by the proprietor of a fine garden where she frequently visited.

Her father could not understand his daughter’s delight in the contemplation of Nature’s beauty; for, as far as these things were concerned, he was afflicted with a total blindness worse than a loss of actual sight. Mr. Benton was fond of fruit but he never noticed or admired the flowers from which the fruit was formed. Nevertheless, he seemed pleased that his neighbor, Mr. Thornton, should be interested in his daughter, and take pleasure in talking with her about his rare plants.

“Miss Patsy,” said Mr. Thornton, “it requires tact and perseverance to grow a perfect lily.”

“I could do it if I had the bulbs,” said the girl.

At the close of the interview, a dozen bulbs and an extensive package of plants were put in the carriage for the young lady to take home, as a compliment to her interest in his favorite pursuit.

Mr. Benton’s front door-yard was given over to his[Pg 61] horses, and sometimes the calves were allowed to share in the rich pasturage it furnished. Several ancient cedar trees, ragged and untrimmed, and two thrifty oaks stood on what should have been a lawn, and a straggling row of pomegranates grew along the line of fence on one side, apparently in defiance of cattle and all other exterminating influences.

On her return home, Patsy displayed her treasures to her mother, and was enthusiastic over her floral prospects.

“Papa,” said she, “you must give me space in the vegetable garden for the present, and Tom must prepare the ground.”

“It is perfect foolishness,” said Mr. Benton. “Old Thornton is such a stuck-up old goose that I hated to make him mad, otherwise I should not have brought these things home with me. The truth is I would not swap a row of cotton-plants in my field for everything that old man has got in all his grounds and greenhouses put together.”

“O father, everything he has is so beautiful!” said Patsy. “The summer-houses are like fairy-land, all covered over with roses and vines.”

“You keep cool, Pat, and don’t set your head on having a flower-garden. Your mother was just like you when I married her. The first thing she did was to set out some rose bushes in the front yard. Soon after she took sick and they all died, and she herself came mighty near doing the same thing; so she gave up the whole business, like a sensible woman. Tom is hoeing potatoes just now, and you must not call him[Pg 62] from his work to plant this truck, which is of no account anyway. You’d better fling it all in the river. It would be far better than to go out on the damp ground wasting your time and labor.”

“No, indeed,” said Patsy, who had the dauntless energy of a true gardener; “I shall plant them myself—every one!”

She did so, and her treasures made themselves at home in the rich, mellow soil, and throve wonderfully in response to her careful tending. In a short time she gathered roses and violets, and her golden-banded lilies shot up several tall stems crowned with slender, shapely buds, which were watched with great solicitude. Every morning Patsy would say: “They will bloom to-morrow.”

Mr. Benton refused to “consider the lilies” of his daughter except in the light of a nuisance. Only the evening before, he had seen her standing in the bean-arbor with Walter Jones, who seemed lost in his admiration of the girl while she devoured the beauty of the flowers; and Mr. Benton was not happy at the sight.

“It just beats the devil,” he said to himself, “how there is always a serpent getting into a man’s garden to beguile a foolish girl. It ain’t no suitable place anyhow for girls to be dodging around in with their beaux. My mind’s made up,” said he, striking his closed right hand into the open palm of the left. “I’ll wipe out that flower-bed.”

Early the next morning, before the family had risen, Mr. Benton marched into the garden armed with a hoe.[Pg 63] He went to the lily-bed and began the work of destruction. Aunt Cindy, the cook, was surprised as she took a view from the kitchen window.

“I ’clar to gracious, de boss is a-workin’ Miss Patsy’s garden!” said she to the housemaid.

“He’s workin’ nuthin’. He’s jes’ a-cuttin’ an’ choppin’ up everything,” said the more observant girl.

“Ef dat ole vilyun is spilen’ dat chile’s gyardin’,” said the cook, “when she fines it out, little Patsy’ll tar up de whole plantation. You listen out when she gits up en comes down-stairs. He ain’t done no payin’ job dis time, I let you know he ain’t dat. Great Gawd,” said she, “Patsy’ll be mad!—eh—eh!”

Jeff Davis, Patsy’s little brother, who was out at the front gate, spied Walter Jones riding past, and called out at the top of his voice, “Come in, old fellow, and take breakfast. Sissy’s asleep yet, but we have killed a chicken, and churned, and opened a keg of nails, and there are three fine cantaloupes in the ice-box.”

Walter could not resist this invitation. He dismounted and joined Mr. Benton on the porch, where that gentleman was sipping a cup of black morning coffee after his labor in the garden.

The dense fog was clearing away, and the sun began to show in the eastern horizon. Patsy came down, and was working up the golden butter, printing it with her prettiest molds. She knew Walter was there. She set on the breakfast table a vase filled with water, and ran out into the garden to get the lilies for a center-piece of beauty and color—for they had actually opened at last.

[Pg 64]In a moment everybody was electrified by a terrific scream. The whole family rushed out to see what was the matter. Patsy was wringing her hands and crying. She pointed to the ruined flower-beds, sobbing: “Some wretch has cut up and destroyed all my beautiful flowers!”

“Well,” said Jeff Davis, “it won’t do any good to bellow over it like that, Sis. Breakfast is ready, I tell you. Come to breakfast.”

But Patsy continued weeping and bewailing her loss, regardless of entreaties. She called down some anathemas on the perpetrator of the outrage, which were not pleasant to Mr. Benton’s ears.

“Dry up this minute!” said he. “I cut out those confounded things, and don’t let me hear any more about it. Dry up,” said he, sternly, “and eat your breakfast.”

Neither Patsy nor her mother ate anything, however. They looked through their tears at each other, and were silent, while rebellious indignation filled their hearts. Mr. Benton was angry.

“It is beyond all reason,” said he, “for you to act so because I did as I pleased with my own. Anyhow, I would not give one boy,” looking at Jeff, “for a whole cow-pen full of girls like you,” glancing at Patsy.

Walter was an indignant spectator of this scene, and he wished he could take his sweetheart and fly away with her forever. He took a hasty leave, and Mr. Benton went earlier than usual on his daily round of plantation business.

[Pg 65]Her mother soothed Patsy’s feelings as well as she could and counseled patience.

“I hate him, if he is my father,” said the girl.

The mother reminded her of the filial respect due the author of her being.

“I wish I had no father,” she answered perversely.

Mr. Benton rode back of the fields to the woods where the “hands” were cutting timber to complete a fence around the peach orchard. Tom had started in the spring wagon to go three miles down the river for some young trees. Jeff sat on the seat beside Tom. When Mr. Benton returned to go with them to select the trees at the nursery, the horses were apparently restive and rather unmanageable.

“Get down, Jeff,” said Mr. Benton, “and ride my horse, while I show Tom how to drive these horses.”

A moment after, Jeff and his father had exchanged places, and before Mr. Benton had fully grasped the reins, the ponies took fright and ran out of the road. Coming suddenly to a tree which had fallen, they bounded over it, and the vehicle was upset, and Tom and Mr. Benton were violently thrown out. Tom escaped with a few bruises, but Mr. Benton was seriously injured, his arm being dislocated and his leg broken. Jeff went off for the doctor, and Mr. Benton was carried home insensible.

When Patsy saw the men bringing him into the house in this condition, she thought he had been killed, and was filled with heart-breaking grief and remorse. “Poor father!” she cried, “this is my punishment for[Pg 66] wishing I had no father this morning. O Lord, forgive me!”

Mr. Benton, however, was not dead. After his injured limbs were set to rights by the surgeon, he was soon in a fair way to recovery. In the meanwhile, Patsy and her mother devoted themselves wholly to ministering to his wants and ameliorating the tedium of his confinement to the house.

“Pat,” said he one day, “you have been a great trouble and expense to me, but when a man is suffering with a lame arm and a broken leg, women are certainly useful to have in the house. You and your mother have waited on me and taken good care of me for many weeks.” He glanced at his spliced leg and his swollen arm, and continued: “I could not do much cutting up things in the garden at this time, Pat, could I? I wish I had let your flower-beds alone. Great Cæsar! didn’t you make a fuss over those lilies, and your mother, too! You both actually cried over that morning’s work.”

“Never mind, father,” said Patsy, reassuringly, “we don’t care now,” and she smiled sweetly and lovingly upon the hard-featured invalid.

He was almost well when he said to her: “You are a good child, and let me tell you, my doctor has fallen in love with you. He told me so. Yes, Pat, he is mashed on you, and intends to ask you to marry him, and you had better give up any foolish notion you may have taken to Walter Jones, and take the doctor. He is the best chance you will ever have. He is doing well in his profession, and besides having a good home to take you to, he belongs to an influential family. All I ask[Pg 67] of you is to promise me you won’t refuse the doctor. You would be a fool to reject such a man.”

“O father!” said the girl, “don’t ask me to promise anything.”

“I am going to be obeyed in my own house,” said Mr. Benton, flying into a rage, “and if you don’t mind me, I will put you out of doors.”

Patsy was struck with consternation.

The invalid was now able to move around without assistance. Patsy’s heart was full of fear and trembling.

The next morning she did not come down to print the butter or bring her father his early morning coffee. The girl had eloped with Walter Jones.

“This is worse than breaking my leg,” said Mr. Benton, after his first indignation had subsided.

When he could speak calmly about his trouble to his wife, he wondered what made Patsy so thoughtless and undutiful, when she was an only daughter and had everything she wanted.

“She is very much like her father,” said Mrs. Benton, “and she thought marriage would set her free—emancipate her.”

“That’s pure folly,” said Mr. Benton, “for all females are and ought to be always controlled by their male relations. Nothing on God’s earth can emancipate a woman. She only changes masters when she marries and leaves her father’s house.”

“Patsy, then, has changed masters,” said his wife, “and she seems to be very happy—in her own little home.”

[Pg 68]“Old woman, don’t get saucy, and I will tell you something,” said he. “I have sent to the city for some flower-garden truck, and Maitre has sent me up fifty dollars’ worth of what he calls first-class stuff on the last boat, and I am going over to give it to Pat to plant. Tom shall do the work for her, too. To tell you the real downright truth, you all made me feel cheap about chopping up her things, and I am going to replace them.”

“Oh, I am so glad!” said Mrs. Benton.

“Yes,” said Mr. Benton, “I am perfectly willing to restore forty times as much as I destroyed. Pat’s a trump, anyhow, and I shall never go back on her for anything she has ever done. You can rely on that for a fact.”

Mr. Benton was a good neighbor of ours and assumed some authority over my household. He never failed to come over immediately whenever we had a visit from one of the gunboats, and to reprove me sharply for having any friendly interviews or even civilities with our “kidney-footed enemies,” as he called them, yet at the same time he would seize upon all the newspapers which these gentlemanly officers had given us, and carry them off for his own delectation, regardless of all objections and expostulations.



[Pg 69]



Mary Wall’s letter from Clinton, Louisiana, December 27th, 1863, contains some strong expressions showing the feeling and suffering among women at that period: “You must keep in good heart, my dearest friend, about your son David. I heard he was killed, but I have just seen Mr. Holmes, who has read in a Yankee paper: ‘Capt. Merrick, of Gen. Stafford’s staff, slightly wounded.’ When I heard your boy was killed I felt the blow, and groaned under it, for I know just how the iron hoof of Death tears when it settles down among the heart-strings. When my mother died last year I did not weep so bitterly, for my only disinterested friend was taken from the evil to come; but when my gifted, first-born soldier-boy, Willie—my pride and joy—was laid in a lonely grave, after a mortal gunshot wound, on the Atchafalaya, at Bute la Rose, that was my hardest trial. I could not get to him; yet he was decently buried; but of my brother, shot in the fight in Tennessee, we only know that he was killed on the battlefield at Franklin. My son Wesley was reported missing after the fight at Chickamauga; he may be a prisoner. I have heard nothing[Pg 70] more, and my heart stands still when I think he too may have been killed, and his body thrown in some ravine or creek, as the Texans are said sometimes to do when they ‘lose’ their Yankee prisoners on the march. God knows, this is a wicked war! And there is Bowman, my third son; he may be dead, too, for I do not hear a word from him. I try to steady my aching heart, and go my way, and do my work with a quiet face; but often when I am alone I sink down, and the waves go over me. I can pour out my heart to you. I do hope your boy is but ‘slightly wounded,’ so that he may be sent home to stay with you for a long time. May God in mercy spare his life; but do not set your heart on him.”

General Leroy Stafford, on his last visit to his family, stopped at Myrtle Grove and gave me the particulars of the engagement at Payne’s Farm, Virginia, where David was shot, the ball entering his head above the ear and going out on the other side below the ear. He fell from his horse, it was supposed, mortally wounded. By careful medical attention he survived with the loss of the sight of one eye and power of hearing, the drum of one ear being perforated. He suffered temporarily much disfigurement from paralysis of the facial nerve.

When I saw my handsome boy in this condition my distress will not tax the imagination. “O mother,” he said, “you ought not to feel in this way! So many mothers’ boys can never come back to them, and I am alive and getting better every day. If you have felt cramped in expression, or anybody has ever done anything to you which rubbed you up the wrong way, throw[Pg 71] down your gauntlet and I’ll fight your battles for you. Don’t shed tears over me!”

Judge Avery said, referring to David’s own letter from the hospital: “It is the letter of a hero—not one word of complaint in the whole of it.” The surgeon attributed my son’s extraordinary recovery to the purity of blood uncorrupted by the use of tea, coffee, tobacco or alcoholic drinks.

My brother Milton was surrendered with Port Hudson. July 25, 1863, he wrote as follows from Custom House Prison, No. 6, in New Orleans: “About 2,000 of us are confined here. Many have called to see me but only one has succeeded—a young lady who announced herself as my cousin; said she was determined to have some relative here. I never saw her before. The ladies are very kind and contribute to all our wants. Hundreds of them promenade daily before our windows; they look very sweet and lovely to us. Their hearts are all right, but when they motion to us with their fans, or wave their handkerchiefs, the guards take them away. The whole city is overrun with Yankee soldiers, and the citizens have a subdued look. We have no reason to complain of our treatment, and we are not wholly discouraged. General Lee’s successes are favorable to our cause, and I now feel hopeful of a speedy termination of our troubles, though I see no prospect of our release.

“I learn that the Yankees took everything from Mr. Palmer’s near Clinton—negroes, mules, horses, made the old man dig up his buried silver, and so alarmed the old lady that she died of fright. I wish to[Pg 72] got back into the field—feel more and more the necessity to establish our independence, for we can never again live at peace with our hated enemy.”

Notwithstanding these things, and that this brother was confined for two years at Johnson’s Island until after the surrender, he has been for years a loyal Republican, and is now an office-holder under Mr. McKinley.

The jayhawkers were a terror in the neighborhood of our Pleasant Hill plantation, where Mr. Merrick spent much of the war period. These guerilla ruffians gave many peaceable families much anxiety even when dwelling hundreds of miles from the seat of war. They were sometimes deserters and always outlaws, but wore the uniform of either army as fitted their purpose, and had no scruples about doing the most lawless and violent deed. At one time it was unsafe to let it be known when the head of the family would go or return, or to allow any plans to leak out, lest a descent should be made on the unprotected home or the equally unprotected absentee. A careful servant, closing the window-blinds at night, would caution Mr. Merrick to keep out of the range of wandering shots which were often fired by these desperadoes at unoffending persons. It has been asserted that the guerillas were a part of the regular Confederate service, whereas they were outlawed by the army and subject to summary discipline if caught.

When the Confederates were about us we enjoyed immunity from terrors. For ten months General Walker’s Division of our army camped on my land. It is[Pg 73] true we divided our stores with them, but the sense of protection was an unspeakable comfort. I had rooms near my house furnished as a hospital, where I nursed friend or foe who came to me sick. Medicines were treasured more than gold; a whole neighborhood felt safer if it were known there was a bottle of quinine in it; drugs were kept buried like silver.

There was much delightful association with the officers and our other friends in the army. Every family had stored away for times of illness or extra occasions little remnants of our former luxuries—wine, tea, coffee. General Dick Taylor was once my guest. While sipping his champagne at dinner he exclaimed: “I’m astonished, madam, that in these times you can be living in such luxury!” I explained that it was the birthday of my daughter Laura for which we had long prepared, and that to honor it I had drawn on my last bottle of wine saved for sickness. I made him laugh by relating that every time there was a raid I got out a bottle of wine, and we all drank in solemn state to keep it from falling into the hands of the Yankees.

General Richard Taylor was the only son of President Zachary Taylor. He married a Louisiana lady and made his home in this State. He won conspicuous success as a brigade commander under Stonewall Jackson, and being placed in command of the Department of Mississippi and Alabama, his brilliant record culminated in the victories of Mansfield and Pleasant Hill. Having beaten General Banks one day at the former place, he pursued him to Pleasant Hill—where[Pg 74] my husband was during the whole period of active warfare—and defeated him again. He was the idol of the Trans-Mississippi Department—and well he might be, for he alone had redeemed it from utter hopelessness.[1]

[1] Southern Historical Society Papers.

General Polignac was the brave Frenchman who set his men wild with amusement and enthusiasm, by placing his hand on his heart and exclaiming with empressement: “Soldiers, behold your Polignac!” They beheld him and followed him ardently. While partaking of very early green peas and roast lamb at my table, he asked: “Did you raise these peas under glass, madam?” “Look at my broken windows,” I answered, “all over this house, and tell whether I can raise peas under glass when we can’t keep ourselves under it!” With such as we had everybody kept open house while the war lasted. Nobody, high or low, was turned from the door; so long as there was anything to divide, the division went on: all of which has confirmed me in the belief that in proportion as artificial social conditions are removed the divinity in man shines out; and that Bellamy’s vision for humanity need not be all a dream.

The news of Lee’s surrender fell with stunning force, although it had long been feared that the Confederates were nearing the end of their resources. Peace was welcomed by the class of men who had begun to desert the army, because their little children were starving at home; it was also good news to the broad-minded student of history who knew that surrender was the[Pg 75] only alternative for an army overpowered; that the victories of peace embodied the only hope. But there were many who said: “Why not have fought on until all were dead—man, woman and child? What is left to make life worth the living?”

An impression prevailed among the victors of the civil war, that the Southern people were lying awake at night to curse the enemy that had wrought their desolation and impoverishment. Nothing could have been further from the truth. After the first stupefying effects of the surrender, the altered social and domestic conditions engrossed every energy. Every home mourned its dead. Those were counted happy who could lay tear-dewed flowers upon the graves of their soldier-slain—so many never looked again, even upon the dead face of him who had smiled back at them as the boys marched away to the strains of Dixie. The shadow of a mutual sorrow drew Southern women in sympathy and tenderness toward weeping Northern mothers and wives. True men who have bravely fought out their differences cherish no animosities—though still unconvinced.

The women in every community seemed to far outnumber the men; and the empty sleeve and the crutch made men who had unflinchingly faced death in battle impotent to face their future. Sadder still was it to follow to the grave the army of men, of fifty years and over when the war began, whose hearts broke with the loss of half a century’s accumulations and ambitions, and with the failure of the cause for which they had risked everything. Communities were accustomed to[Pg 76] lean upon these tried advisers; it was almost like the slaughter of another army—so many such sank beneath the shocks of reconstruction.

It is folly to talk about the woman who stood in the breach in those chaotic days, being the traditional Southern woman of the books, who sat and rocked herself with a slave fanning her on both sides. She was doubtless fanned when she wished to be; but the ante-bellum woman of culture and position in the South was a woman of affairs; and in the care of a large family—which most of them had—and of large interests, she was trained to meet responsibilities. So in those days of awful uncertainties, when men’s hearts failed them, it was the woman who brought her greater adaptability and elasticity to control circumstances, and to lay the foundations of a new order. She sewed, she sold flowers, milk and vegetables, and she taught school; sometimes even a negro school. She made pies and corn-bread, and palmetto hats for the Federals in garrison; she raised pigs, poultry and pigeons; and she cooked them when the darkey—who was “never to wuk no mo’”—left her any to bless herself with; she washed, often the mustered-out soldier of the house filling her tubs, rubbing beside her and hanging out her clothes; and he did her swearing for her when the Yankee soldier taunted over the fence: “Wall, it doo doo my eyes good to see yer have to put yer lily-white hands in the wash-tub!”

As soon as the war was over, my daughter went with her grandmother to visit her father’s relatives in Massachusetts. In letters to her, beginning September[Pg 77] 16, 1865, I thus described the conditions under which we were living: “The war was prosperity to the state of things which peace has wrought. Society is resolving itself into its original elements. Chaos has come again. St. Domingo is a paradise to this part of the United States, which is cut off from the benefits of government. The negroes who have gained their liberty are more unhappy and dissatisfied than ever before. Poor creatures! their weak brains are puzzling over the great problem of their future. Care seems likely to eat up every pleasure in their bewildered lives. They no longer dance and sing in the quarters at night, but sit about in dejected groups; their chief dissipation is prayer-meeting. It is a dire perplexity that they must pay their doctor’s bills; they resent it as a bitter injustice that ‘Marster’ does not ‘find them’ in medicine and all the ordinary things of living as of old. They say no provision is made for them. They are left to work for white folks the same as ever, but for white folks who no longer care for them nor are interested in their own joys and sorrows. Freedom meant to them the abolition of work, liberty to rove uncontrolled, to drink liquor and to carry firearms. As Rose recently said to me: “I don’t crave fin’ry—jes plenty er good close, en vittles, en I ’spects ter get dese widout scrubbin’ fer ’em,’ ‘Where is de gover’ment?’ they ask anxiously, ‘en de forty acres er lan’, en de mule?’—which each one of them was led to reckon on. They expected a saturnalia of freedom; to be legislators, judges and governors in the land, to live in the white folks’ houses, and to ride in their carriages.[Pg 78] They cannot understand a freedom that involves labor and care. They say they were deceived; that white folks still have the upper hand, and ride while they walk. I pity them deeply.

“You know I have never locked up anything. Now I am a slave to my keys. I am robbed daily. Spoons, cups and all the utensils from the kitchen have been carried off. I am now paying little black Jake to steal some of them back for me, as he says he knows where they are. I cannot even set the bread to rise without some of it being taken. All this, notwithstanding the servants are paid wages. It is astonishing that those we have considered most reliable are engaged in the universal dishonesty. I understand they call it ‘sp’ilin’ de ’Gypshuns!’

“The Mississippi river is open;—the boats ply daily up and down, but we have no mail. We are surely treated like stepchildren of the great United States. Already the tax-assessor has come to value our property; the tax-gatherer has collected the national revenues; agents of the Freedman’s Bureau are taking the census of negro children preparatory to forming schools, and Northern land buyers are looking out for bargains in broken-up estates. Is it strange that we ask: ‘Where is the postmaster?’ We have had already too much exclusion from the world in Confederate days. Let us emerge from our former ‘barbarous state of ignorance,’—and let me hear from my absent child in Massachusetts!

“Your father has written from New Orleans as follows: ‘I have extricated my Jefferson City property[Pg 79] from the seizure of the Federals, and have paid $800 to release it, though I think it will cost several hundred more. They—the Federals—burnt the mill mortgaged to me by G. B. M.—and I shall lose $5,000 on that. I think I have done remarkably well to have paid off so many incumbrances, but I wish you to have for the present a rigid management of all matters of expense. I am glad I have a prospect of getting my law library into my possession again. I find four hundred and fifty volumes of it in the quartermaster’s department.

“I can only extricate my affairs by economy on the part of all my family, and am only asking that they show a little patience under our temporary separation. I do not wish them to aid me by earning anything, except it be David, for himself individually; but we shall all be in the city in our own home the sooner by the exercise of present self-denial.

“‘I am glad to learn that the people of the South denounce the assassination of Lincoln,’ for it was a ruinous misfortune to us.

“At present we are living at as little expense as possible with no perceptible income. We are taxed according to the ante-bellum tax lists—including our slaves and property swept off the earth by the armies. A fine sugar estate, near us on the river, worth two hundred thousand dollars, was sold last week for taxes, which were seven thousand five hundred dollars. The whole estate—land, dwelling, sugar house, stock—brought only four thousand dollars. There could scarcely be completer confiscation than these unrighteous[Pg 80] tax-sales under which millions of dollars worth of property are advertised for sale.

“I saw a late article in the Chicago Times in which the writer said: ‘You had better be a poor man’s dog than a Southerner now.’ If our negroes are idle and impudent we are not allowed to send them away. If we have crops waiting in the fields for gathering, the hands are all given by the semi-military government ‘passes to go,’ though we pay wages; and (weakly or humanely?) buy food, furnish doctors and wait on the sick, very much in the old way, simply because nature refuses to snap the ties of a lifetime on the authority of new conditions. I have it in mind to make Myrtle Grove a very disagreeable place to some of the most trifling, so that they will get into the humor to hunt a new home.

“General Price said: ‘We played for the negro, and the Yankees fairly won the stake, with Cuffy’s help.’ Let them have him and keep him! Your father has just had a settlement with his freedmen. They are extremely dissatisfied with the result. Though they acknowledge every item on their accounts, furnished at New Orleans wholesale prices, it is a disappointment not to have a large sum of money for their year’s labor—that, too, after an extravagance of living we have not dared to allow ourselves, and an idleness for which we are like sufferers, as the crop was planted on shares. I am convinced the negroes are too much like children to understand or be content with the share system.

“I have a good cook, but she has a cavaliere servente, besides her own husband and children, to provide for[Pg 81] out of my storeroom, which she does in my presence very often—though it is not in the bond. I am impatient when she takes the butter given her for pastry and substitutes lard; yet I cannot withhold my admiration when I see her double the recipe in order that her own table may be graced with a soft-jumble as good as mine. Somebody has said: ‘By means of fire, blood, sword and sacrifice you have been separated from your black idol.’ It looks to me as if he is hung around our necks like the Ancient Mariner’s albatross. You ridicule President Johnson’s idea of loaning us farming implements. You must not forget who burned ours. We need money, for we have to pay the four years’ taxes on our freed negroes!

“There is bad blood between the races. Those familiar with conditions here anticipate that the future may witness a servile war—a race war—result of military drilling, arming and haranguing the negro for political ends. Secession was a mistake for which you and I were not responsible. But even if our country was wrong, and we knew it at the time—which we did not—we were right in adhering to it. The best people in the South were true to our cause; only the worthless and unprincipled, with rare exceptions, went over to the enemy. We must bear our trials with what wisdom and patience we may be able to summon until our status is fully defined. I cannot but feel, however, that if war measures had ceased with the war, if United States officers on duty here, and the Government at Washington, had shown a friendly desire to bury past animosities and to start out on a real basis of reunion,[Pg 82] we should have become a revolutionized, reconstructed people by this time. But certain it is that the enemy—authorities and ‘scalawag’-friends, who now cruelly oppress the whites and elevate the negro over us—are hated as the ravaging armies never were, and a true union seems farther off than ever.”



[Pg 83]



War is demoralizing, and ever since “our army swore terribly in Flanders,” profanity has been a military sin. In my neighborhood it extended to the women and children who had never before violated the third commandment. I knew a little girl who, having seen a regiment of Federal soldiers marching along the public highway, ran to her mother crying, “The damned Yankees are coming!” She was exempt from reproof on account of the exciting nature of the news. She had doubtless heard the obnoxious word so often in this connection that she deemed it a correct term.

I tried to preserve my own household “pure and peaceable and of good report,” and I plead with my five girls to avoid all looseness of expression. But Fannie Little asked: “Mrs. Merrick, may I not even tell Rose to ‘go to the devil’ when she puts my nightgown where I can’t find it, and makes me wait so long for hot water?”

“No, indeed, my child! Only Christian ministers can speak with propriety of the devil, and use his name on common occasions.”

As a social side-light on these disordered secession[Pg 84] war-times the following sketch is a true picture. The characters and incidents are real, but the names are assumed. The endeavor to embalm the events in words diverted me in the midst of graver experience during those chaotic days.

Beechwood plantation has a frontage of two miles on the banks of a navigable river. The tall dwelling-house was so surrounded by other buildings, all well constructed and painted white, that the first glance suggested the idea of a village embowered in trees. The proprietorship of a noble estate implies a certain distinction, and in fact the owner of this property had for many years represented his district in Congress. In past as well as present times people manifest a disposition to bestow political honors upon men of prosperity and affluence.

Mr. Templeton, notwithstanding the fact that he possessed an uncommonly large amount of property in land and slaves, was not a giant either in body or in mind. He surely had spoken once in the national Capitol, for was he not known to have sent a printed copy of a speech to every one of the Democratic constituents in the State? In this pamphlet were set forth eloquent and powerful arguments against the unjust discrimination of the specific duties on silk, which he thought operated to the disadvantage and serious injustice of the poor man. He asserted confidently that the poor people would purchase only the heavy, serviceable silken goods, while the rich preferred the lighter and flimsier fabrics, thus paying proportionately[Pg 85] a much smaller revenue to the Government. This proved conclusively that Mr. Templeton never consulted his wife, whose rich dresses were always paid for as the tariff was arranged—ad valorem. His patriotic soul was harrowed and filled with sympathy and sorrow on account of the injustice and hardship thus dealt out to his needy and indigent constituents. We cannot follow this interesting man’s public career, and probably it is customary for great statesmen “to study the people’s welfare” and to have the good of the poor men who vote for them very much upon their disinterested minds.

The Templeton family came originally from that State which furnished to the South, in the hour of trial, some brave soldiers and a good song—“Maryland, my Maryland.” Lavinia, Mr. Templeton’s only daughter, had been educated at the Convent in Emmetsburg, and had returned home after Fort Sumter was fired upon and other disturbances were anticipated. This slender, delicate, little creature was very graceful and pretty, timid as a fawn, and frisky as a young colt. At first she could not be induced to sit at table if there was a young man in the dining-room. She said she preferred to wait, and when she came in afterward for her dinner her brother Frank testified that she always ate an extra quantity to make up for the delay.

Old Miss Eliza thought Vine so lovely and good that she always allowed her to do as she pleased, only enjoining on her to “be a lady.” Miss Eliza was an old-maid cousin who lived in the family, shared the cares and anxieties of the parents, and was greatly [Pg 86]respected by everybody. She was not a particularly religious person—there not being a church within ten miles—but she was kind, courteous and gentle, and exhibited a great deal of deportment of the very finest quality—as might have been expected from her refined Virginia antecedents. She could not abide that the servants should call Lavinia Templeton “Miss Vine,” but they called her so all the same.

Beaux far and near contended for Lavinia’s regard, and in less than six months after leaving the convent she was married to a young captain newly enlisted in the artillery of the Confederate service. A grand wedding came off where many noteworthy men assembled. While the band played and the giddy dance went on, groups of these consulted about the portentous war clouds. One great man said: “There will be no war; I will promise to drink every drop of blood shed in this quarrel!”

But soon there was a military uprising everywhere. As men enlisted they went into a camp situated less than an hour’s drive from Beechwood. Vine and her lover-husband refused to be separated, so she virtually lived in the encampment. The spotless new tents, with bright flags flying, the young men thronging around the carriages which brought their mothers and sisters as daily visitors, made this camp in the woods a bewitching spot.

Every luxury the country afforded was poured out with lavish hands. Friends, neighbors and loved ones at home skimmed the richest cream of the land for the delectation and refreshment of their dear soldier boys.[Pg 87] A young schoolboy, who dined with his brother in camp on barbecued mutton and roast wild turkey with all the accompaniments, wrote to his father that he too was ready to enlist, having now had a perfect insight into soldier life. As this gallant veteran to-day looks at his empty, dangling coat-sleeve and is shown his boyish letter, he smiles a grim smile and says: “Yes, I was a fool in those days.” Vine’s husband had a noble figure and was a picture of manly beauty in his new uniform with scarlet facings. To the horror of her woman friends the devoted little wife cut up a costly black velvet gown, and made it into a fatigue jacket for him to wear in camp.

Meanwhile the unexpected happened and we were in the midst of a real, terrible war. Federal military operations extended over the whole country; then appeared a gunboat with its formidable armament, striking a panic into all the white inhabitants. Soldiers advanced to the front, while citizens precipitately retreated to the rear. In trepidation and hot haste planters gathered up their possessions for departure. Slaves, always dearer and more precious to the average Southern heart than either silver or gold, were first collected and assembled with the owners and their families, and then formed large companies of refugees who went forth to look for a temporary home in some less exposed part of the country.

After much deliberation Mr. and Mrs. Templeton, with the little boys and their cumbrous retinue of wagons, horses and slaves, went to Texas, leaving their daughter Vine, Miss Eliza and two faithful servants as[Pg 88] sole tenants of Beechwood. The expected advance of Federal forces in the spring seemed to justify the reduction of the place to such slender equipment. Meanwhile, Captain Paul had been through a campaign in Virginia. On the very day of the battle of Bethel, Vine clasped a new-born daughter in her arms, and the father requested that its name should be Bethel in commemoration of that engagement. This child was a year old before he saw its face. The time came when Louisiana soil was to be plowed up with military trenches and fortifications, and Captain Paul was ordered to Port Hudson. The siege of that place soon followed.

In the evenings Miss Eliza sat on the gallery holding Bethel in her arms, while Vine rocked little Dan, the baby of seven months, and they would all listen in wistful silence to the volleys of heavy guns sounding regularly and dolefully far down the river. The regular boom of the thundering volleys kept on day and night. The two servants, Becky and Monroe, would occasionally join the group; “Never mind, Miss Vine, don’t you fret,” they would say; “sure, Captain Paul’s all right.” After many weeks of painful suspense and anxiety the shocking news came that Captain Paul had been killed by the explosion of a shell. Vine’s grief was wild. She wept and raved by turn, until Miss Eliza feared she would die. Becky with womanly instinct brought her the children and reminded her that she still had these. “Take them away,” cried Vine, “I loved them only for his sake; children are nothing! Take them out of my sight![Pg 89] Oh! Lord,” she cried, “let us all die and be buried together! Why does anybody live when Paul is dead?—dead, dead, forever!”

Vine put on no mourning in her widowhood, for such a thing as crepe was unattainable in those days. The girls in the neighborhood came and stayed with her by turns, and did all they could to divert her mind from her loss.

In a short time even punctilious Miss Eliza rejoiced to perceive some return of Vine’s former cheerfulness. She said it was sad enough and bad enough to have a horrible war raging and ravaging over the country, without insisting that a delicate young thing like Lavinia should go on forever moping herself to death in unavailing grief. There was no need of anything of the kind. While wishing her niece to avoid “getting herself talked about,” Miss Eliza yet thought it needful, right and proper that she should take some diversion and some healthy amusement. So it came to pass after awhile that one day all the officers and soldiers who were temporarily at home, and all the young ladies living on the river, were invited to dine together at Beechwood.

The day was cool and delightful, with just a tinge of winter in the air. Extensive fields, where hundreds of bales of cotton and thousands of barrels of corn had been grown annually, were now given up to weeds, briars and snakes. Here and there in protected nooks and corners clusters of tall golden-rod or blue and purple wild asters waved their heads. Only one small patch of ripened corn near the dwelling indicated that[Pg 90] the inhabitants had not entirely forgotten seed-time and might possibly have hope of even a tiny harvest later on.

It was eleven o’clock before Vine had finished the work of decorating her parlors. She felt weary from the unusual exertion, but remembering her duties to her expected guests, she ran to the window overlooking the kitchen and called, “Becky, Becky, you know who are to be here; now do have everything all right for dinner; and, Becky, please keep the children quiet, for I should like to take a nap before I dress.”

“Y’as’m,” said the woman, while a shade of care came into her honest face, as she regarded the two children playing in the corner of the kitchen. “I ’clar to Gawd, dat’s jes’ like Miss Vine, she’s done got in de bed dis minit and lef’ me wid bofe dese chillun on my han’s, en she knows, mitey well, dat um got a heap to tend ter, dis day. She tole me dat she wus gwine to he’p me, she did, en it’s de Gawd’s trufe dat she ain’t done er spec of er blessed thing ceppin gether dem bushes and flowers, en Captain Prince he hope her at dat. Now, ef she had put her han’ to de vegables, dat would er ben sumpin. Flowers will do for purty and niceness, but you cayent eat ’em, en you cayent drink ’em. Dey’re des here to-day and gone all to pieces to-morrow; whut good is dey anyhow? a whole kyart load of um don’t mount ter er hill er beans. Well,” she continued, “I jes’ won’t blame de young creetur, but Gawd ermitey only knows when all dem white folks will set down ter dat ar dinner Miss Vine done ’vited ’em ter come here en eat! Here, Beth,” said she kindly to the little girl,[Pg 91] “clam up on dis stool, honey, by dis table; um gwine ter fix yo a nice roas’ tater in a minit. Yo, Dan,” she called out sharply to the boy, “yo jes’ stop mashin’ dat cat’s tail wid dat cheer ’fo’ he scratch yo to deff! Min’, I tell yer! It jes’ looks like Miss Vine wouldn’t keer ef I bust my brains er wukin’; but I ain’t er gwine to do dat fer nobody. Well, not fer strange white folks, anyhow.”

Here Beth with a mouthful of sweet potato asked for water. Becky promptly dipped a gourd full and held it to her lips grumbling all the while, “Lamb O’ Gawd, how in de name er goodness is I gwine ter wait on dese chillun, wash up dese dishes, put on dinner, en fetch all de wood from de wood pile?” As she stood contemplating her manifold duties, she heard the clock in the house striking the hour. “Lord, Gawd,” said she, “ef it ain’t twelve o’clock er ’ready, en shore nuff here comes all dem white folks jes’ a gallopin’ up de big road. Eh—eh—eh—well, dey’ll wait twell em ready fur ’em, dat’s all. But I does wish Miss Vine was mo’ like her mar. Ole Mis’ wouldn’t never dremped ’bout ’viten a whole pasel er folks here, widout havin’ pigs, and po’try, pies and cakes, en sich, all ready, de day befo’. She had plenty on all sides an’ plenty ter do de work too. Now here’s Miss Vine she’s after havin’ her own fun. Well, she’s right, you hear me, niggahs!”

“You ain’t talkin’ to me, Aunt Becky,” said Beth; “I ain’t no nigger.” The woman laughed, dropped her dishcloth on the unswept floor, grasped the child and tossed her up several times over her head. “Gawd[Pg 92] bless dis smart chile! no, dat yo ain’t! yo is a sweet, little, white angel outen heaben, you is dat, you purty little white pig!”

In the height of this performance Monroe came to the door and thrust in an enormous turkey just killed. Seeing what was going on he exclaimed: “Why, Aunt Becky, yo better stop playing wid dat white chile en pick dis turkey ’fo’ Miss Eliza happen ’long here en ketch yer.”

“Shet yo mouf, en git out o’ dis kitchen, boy; you cayent skeer me; I can give you as good es you can sen’ any day. De white folks knows I ain’t got but two han’s and can’t do a hundred things in a minit.” She put the child down, however, and resumed her dish washing.

The girls in the meantime had retouched their disheveled curls and joined the young men in the parlor, where for a time music, songs and dances made the hours fly. Let us play “Straw,” said Nelly Jones.

“No, let Captain Prince lead and choose the game,” said Arabella.

So the captain seated the company in line. “Now,” said he, “not one of you must crack a smile on pain of forfeit, and when I say prepare to pucker, you must all do so,”—drawing out as he spoke the extraordinary aperture in his own good-natured face, extending his lips into an automatic, gigantic, wooden smirk reaching almost from ear to ear. Everybody giggled of course, but he went on: “I shall call out ‘Pucker,’ and you must instantly face about with your mouths fixed this way”—and he drew up his wonderful feature[Pg 93] small enough to dine with the stork out of a jar. The company shouted, but the game was never played, for reproof and entreaty, joined to the captain’s word of command, failed to get them beyond a preparatory attempt which ended always in screams of laughter.

The sun was getting low in the west when another want began to appeal to the inner consciousness of these young persons. Some of them had ridden for miles in the morning air; since then they had sung and danced and laughed in unlimited fashion. Now they began to think of some other refreshment. Arabella ventured to request that Captain Prince be sent to the kitchen to reconnoiter and bring in a report from the commissary department. The captain responded amiably, and said she was a sensible young lady. “Vine, ain’t you hungry?” asked Arabella. “Oh, I took some luncheon before you came,” replied she; “if you will go up-stairs and look in the basket under my dressing table, you will find some sandwiches, but not enough for all.” The girl flew up-stairs.

When Captain Prince returned the girls rushed forward and overpowered him with questions. He threw up his hands deprecatingly and waved off his noisy assailants. “Stop, stop, young ladies, I will make my report. I went round to the kitchen and found Aunt Becky behind the chimney ripping off the feathers of a turkey so big” (holding his hands nearly a yard apart). “I got a coal o’ fire to light my pipe, then I made a memorandum.” Here he pulled out an old empty pocketbook and pretended to read—“Item[Pg 94] 1st, ‘Fowl picking at three o’clock,’ that means dinner at six. Can you wait that long?”

“Never!” cried the girls.

“Well, we must then go into an election for a new housekeeper who will go in person or send a strong committee who will whoop up the cook and expedite the meal which is to refresh these fair ladies and brave men,”—and he began to count them.

“Don’t number me in your impolite crowd,” said Arabella, “for I am content to wait until dinner is ready.” Vine gave her a meaning smile and went up pleadingly to the captain, rolling her fine eyes in the innocent, sweet way characteristic of some of the most fascinating of her sex, and begging him to continue to be the life and soul of her party, as he always was everywhere he went: she said if he would “start something diverting,” she would go and stir Becky up and have dinner right off—she would, “honest Indian.”

These girls were not sufficiently polite to keep up a pleased appearance when bored. Such little artificialities of society belonged to the days of peace. They flatly refused to dance, saying they were tired. One avowed that she was sorry she had persuaded her mother to let her come to such a poky affair, and another declared that she had never been anywhere in her whole lifetime before where there was not cake, fruit, candy, popcorn, pindars, or something handed round when dinner was as late as this. “Oh,” said Nelly Jones, “I wish I had a good stalk of sugar-cane.” In fact a cloud seemed to settle down in the parlors like smoke in murky weather.

[Pg 95]Captain Prince stroked his blond goatee affectionately and looked serious, but brightening up in a moment he crossed the wide hall and entered the library where Major Bee was writing. He captured the major, brought him and introduced him to the ladies, and then seated him in a capacious arm-chair, while he held a whispering conference with Nelly Jones. Nelly’s wardrobe was the envy and admiration of all the girls on the river. Being the daughter of a cotton speculator, she wore that rare article, a new dress. Unlike Arabella, whose jacket was cut from the best part of an old piano cover, she was arrayed in fine purple cashmere trimmed with velvet and gold buttons, and was otherwise ornamented with a heavy gold chain and a little watch set with diamonds. Nelly took the captain’s arm and made a low bow to Major Bee, and the girls were once more on the qui vive when they heard the captain say in slow and measured tones, “I have come with the free and full consent of this young lady to ask you to join us for life in the bonds of matrimony.” The amiable old major seemed ready to take part in this dangerous pastime, for gentle dulness ever loves a joke. “Bring me a prayer book,” said he, “if you please.”

“I lent my mother’s prayer book,” said Vine, “to old Mrs. Simpson two years ago, and she never returned it—the mean old thing!”

The major next asked for a broom which he held down before the couple saying, “Jump over.”

“Hold it lower,” said Nelly, and they stepped over in a business-like manner.

“Now,” said Major Bee, “I solemnly pronounce you[Pg 96] husband and wife, and I hope and trust that you will dwell together lovingly and peacefully until you die. I have at your request tied this matrimonial knot as tight as I possibly could, under the circumstances, and I hope you will neither of you ever cause me to regret that I have had the pleasure of taking part in this highly dignified and honorable ceremony.”

Then the old major kissed the bride, whom he had always petted from childhood, and shook hands with Captain Prince, whom Nelly refused the privilege accorded the major, for said she, “there was no kissing in the bargain.” The company crowded around with noisy congratulations; a sofa was drawn forward, and the mock bridal couple sat in state and entertained their guests.

“My dear,” remarked the bride, “I expected to make a tour when I was married.”

“Yes, miss,”—he corrected himself quickly,—“yes, madam, I think as there are no steamboats that we may take a little journey up the river on a raft.”

“What kind of a raft, Captain?” asked Nelly.

“My love, I mean a steam raft. I will take the steam along in a jug.”

Nelly made a terrible grimace of disgust and was silent for a moment, her mind still dwelling on the bridal tour. “Captain, you know we must have money for traveling expenses,” said she.

“Yes, darling, it takes that very thing, so I will spout your fine watch and chain, and then we can find ourselves on wheels.”

Nelly drew down the corners of her pretty mouth,[Pg 97] pouted her lips and looked more disgusted than ever. To them it was all very funny.

“My dearest, I fear when your mother hears the news she will say ‘Poor Nelly, she has thrown herself away!’” and the captain actually blushed at this vision of Mrs. Jones’s disapprobation.

“Keep the ball rolling, Captain,” said Billy Morris, “this sport is splendid.”

The captain fixed his keen eye on Billy’s large, standing collar and asked, “Did you ever see a small dog trotting along in high oats? Well,”—surveying his person—“I have.”

“Come now, Captain,” replied Billy, “I’ll allow you some privileges, being just married, but you must pass your wit around. I’ve had enough. Don’t compare your single unmarried friend to a dog.”

Dinner was then announced and the party were soon seated at table. That king of edible birds, the turkey savory and brown, was placed at one end, and a fresh stuffed ham stood at the other, while the vegetables filled up the intervening space. A large bunch of zinnias and amaranthus set in a broken pitcher formed a gay center-piece. The dessert was egg-nogg, and Confederate pound-cake made from bolted cornmeal. The dinner was concluded with a cup of genuine coffee. Notwithstanding the late meal, never had there been a merrier day at old Beechwood. Healths to the absent ones were drunk from the single silver goblet of egg-nogg allowed for each guest. The girls did not relish this mixture made of crude and fiery Louisiana rum, but the soldiers were not so fastidious; they said they[Pg 98] often had occasion to repeat the remark of the Governor of North Carolina to the Governor of South Carolina that “it was a long time between drinks.”

Monroe removed the dishes and retired to the kitchen while the guests lingered over the dessert. The cook sat and looked down the river. The window commanded a view for two miles. Her work was done and she manifested her relief by breaking into singing these words:

“John saw, J-o-h-n saw,
John saw de holy number
Settin’ roun de golden altar.
Golden chariot come fer me, come fer me,
Golden chariot come fer me,
Childun didn’t he rise?”

She had commenced the second verse, “John saw,” when suddenly her jaws fell, and springing up she exclaimed: “Jesus marster! what’s dat? Look! Everybody! Here comes er gunboat, en Riley’s house is er fire. Don’t yer see it bu’nin! Run, boy, run, en call Miss Vine! Tell Mis Lizer! Go dis minit an’ let ’em all know, I tell yer!” “Set right down, set down, Aunt Becky! ’tain’t none er my business to tell nuthin’. Set right down, ’oman, en let dem white folks ’lone,” and the man seized her and pushed her with all his force towards the chair.

The woman turned fiercely upon him and planted a blow on the side of his head which sent him headlong on the floor. “Look er-heah, boy, who is you foolin’ wid, anyhow? You think yerself a man, does yer when[Pg 99] yous er born fool! I let you know it tuck de tightest overseer ole marster ever had on dis plantashun to rule me. No nigger like you better try ter tackle Becky. I’ll double you up an fling you outer dis winder in no time. You neenter tell nuthin. I’ll go tell ’em—I’ll go ef Gawd spars me to git dar. I nussed Miss Vine; dat gal used to suck dese yere”—and Becky eloquently placed her hands on her round ebony bosom, as she broke into a full run from the kitchen door. She entered the dining-room crying out in breathless, agitated tones, “Look heah, people, thar’s a big gunboat er comin’ up de river en Riley’s house is er-fire!”

In an instant confusion and utter consternation reigned. “Good God!” exclaimed Vine, “and here’s all mother’s silver! Like a fool I dug it up out of the garden this morning. Here, Aunt Becky, help me gather it up.” The woman soon rattled a pile of spoons and forks into a dishpan. “No, no,” screamed Vine, “don’t wash them, let me hide them, quick, somewhere!”

The officers and soldiers had disappeared, and in ten minutes the only male creatures to be seen on the place were Monroe and the baby. The man was in fine spirits while engaged in assisting the young ladies to mount their horses. “Take kere, Miss Em’ly, dis is a skittish little creole pony, and you rides wid too loose a rein.” To another he said, “’Fore Gawd, Miss Jinnie, I hates to see a white lady like you a-riden’ uv er mule, I does dat, en er man’s saddle too! Eh, eh!” “You never mind,” the girl replied; “my pony and both our side-saddles were carried off by the last raid from[Pg 100] Morganza, and I had no choice but to use my brother’s saddle and this mule or stay at home. Cut me a good stick, Monroe, and I shall get along.” “Well, you’ll need a stick,” said Monroe, “wid dat lazy ole mule, ef you ’spects to see home dis night.”

One of the horses jerked away every time he was led up to the steps, but the man was patient with him, only remarking, “Dis hoss been brutalized ’bout de head by somebody ’twel he’s a plum fool. Jump quick, Miss Nelly, while um er holdin’ him fer ye.” The girl sprang to her saddle, adjusted her dress, and directed the man to spread a folded shawl for her sister to ride behind. “Well, well,” said he, “dis beats de bugs, to see white ladies what’s used to rollin’ ’long in der carriages a-ridin’ double like dis!” “We don’t care,” said they, as the party started off gaily down the road.

After the last departure Monroe went to talk over the eventful day with Becky. No allusion was made to such a small matter as a passing blow, and the man sat down by the fire grinning with real enjoyment.

“Didn’t dem white folks scatter quick? I tell yer, Aunt Becky, it done me good all over to see ’em so flustrated,” and he burst into a loud guffaw. “When sumpin don’ go to suit de Templetons, dey’ll paw dirt, dey’ll do it, every time, frum ole marster down to de baby one. Whut did Miss Vine say about it?”

“Well,” said Becky, “lemme tell yer ’bout Miss Vine; de fust thing she done arter I bounced in en tole de news—she gathered up de spoons en forks, en dem silver tumblers, en sich, belonging to ole Mis’, en den[Pg 101] she look ’roun’ en seed de men wus all gone; den she clinched her teeth, en des doubled up her fis’, she did, en shuck it t’wards dat big ole boat es she come puffin’ en blowin’ up de river, wid de great big cannons a-sticken outen her sides, en des a-swarmin’ all over wid de blue-coats, en says she: ‘Dern you infernal black souls! I wish to Gawd every one of you was drownded in de bottom of de river.’”

“Lord!” said Monroe, catching his breath, “now didn’t she cuss?”

“Yes, sirree! she did dat; en so would you, en me,” said Becky.

“But she’s white,” said the man. “I don’t keer ef she is; ain’t white folks got feelin’s same as we is?” asked Becky. “No,” said Monroe, “dey ain’t; some of um is mighty mean, yes, a heap of ’em.”

“Yo cayn’t set down here and ’buse Miss Vine,” said Becky, “we’re ’bleeged to gib her de praise. Ef its ’fo’ her face or ’hine her back, um boun’ to say it; she’s de feelin’est creetur, de free-heartedest, de most corndescendin’est young white ’oman, I ever seed in all my life,—fer a fac’. But when she done so”—here Becky shook her fist in imitation of Vine’s passionate outbreak, en said dat I done tole yer, Miss Eliza put in en spoke up she did, en says she, ‘Laviney, yo must certinly forgit yo is er lady!’ Whew! Miss Vine never heerd her. ’Twan’t no use fer nobody to say nuthin’. I tell you dat white gal rared en pitched untwel she bust into be bitteres’ cry yo ever heerd in yo life. She said dem devils warn’t satisfied wid killin’ her Paul, en makin’ her a lonesome widder, but here dey[Pg 102] comes agin, jes’ as she were joyin’ herse’f, jes’ es she were takin’ a little plesyure, here dey comes a knockin’ uv it all in de haid, en spillin’ de fat in de fire.

“I was sorry for de chile, fer it was de Gawd’s trufe she spoke, so I comes back in heah, I did, en got some of dat strong coffee I dun saved for yo en me, en I het a cupful an brung it to her. ‘Here, honey,’ says I, ‘drink dis fer yo Becky, en d-o-n’t cry no mo’, dat’s my good baby!’ She wipe up her eyes, en stop cryin’, she did, en drunk de coffee. Dar I was, down on my knees, jes’ facin’ of her, and she handed back de cup. ’Twas one er ole Mis’ fine chaney cups. ‘Dat’s yo, honey,’ says I, ‘you musn’t grieve!’ en I was er pattin’ of her on de lap, when she tuck a sudden freak, en I let yo know she ups wid dem little foots wid de silver shoes on, en she kicked me spang over, broadcast, on de flo’.

“Den ole Miss Lizer, she wall her eyes at Miss Vine, en say, ‘Laviney, um ’stonished to see yo ax so.’ She mout as well er hilt her mouf—fer it didn’t do dat much good,” said Becky, snapping her fingers. “Den arter er while, Miss Vine seed me layin’ dar on de floor en she jumped up she did, en gin me her two han’s to pull me up. I des knowed I was too heavy for her to lif, but I tuck a holt of her, en drug her down in my lap en hugged her in my arms, pore young thing! Den I jes’ put her down e-a-s-y on de hath-rug, ’fo’ de fire, en kiver her up wid a shawl. Den I run up-sta’rs en fotch a piller, en right dar on de foot of de bed she had done laid out dat spangly tawlton dress, en I des knowed she wus gwine to put it on, en dance de[Pg 103] Highlan’ fling dis very ebenin’. Can’t she out-dance de whole river anyhow?” said Becky.

“Oh!” said Monroe, “I don’t ’spute dat. I love to see her in her brother Frank’s close a-jumpin’ up to my fiddle! den she bangs a circus—dat she do!”

Becky continued her narration: “I comes back en lif’s her head on de piller, en pushed up the chunks to men’ de fire, en lef’ her dar sobbin’ herself down quiet.” Becky sighed and went on: “I tell yo, man, when dat little creetur dar in de house takes a good start—yo cayn’t hole her, nobody nee’n’ to try; you cayn’t phase her I tell you. En dar’s Beth, she’s gwine be jes’ sich er nother—I loves dat chile too! She don’t feature her mar neither, ’ceppen her curly head.

“But dis won’t do me. Less go up frum here, Monroe. Yo make up a light, en less go to de hen-house en ketch a pasel of dem young chickens, en put ’em in de coop. I wants to brile one soon in de mawnin’ en take it to Miss Vine wid some hot co’n cakes. She’s used to eatin’ when she fust wakes up, en um gwine to have sumpen ready fer her, fer I give you my word, dey ain’t de fust Gawd’s bit er nuthin ’tall lef’ frum dat ar’ dinner party.”



[Pg 104]



The bewilderment of the negroes in the great social upheaval that came with peace was outdone by that of the white people. The conditions of the war times had been peaceable and simple compared with the perplexities of existence now precipitated upon us. The Confederacy’s 175,000 surrendered soldiers—and these included the last fifteen-year-old boy—were scattered through the South, thousands of them disabled for work by wounds, and thousands more by ill-health and ignorance of any other profession than that of arms. The Federal soldiers garrisoned all important places. A travesty of justice was meted out by a semi-civil military authority. Every community maintained an active skirmish-line against the daily aggressions of the freedmen and the oppressions of the military arm. Large sums were paid by citizens to recover property held by the enemy; and, for a time, the people paid a per cent. out of every dollar to the revenue office for a permit to spend that dollar at stores opened by Yankees—our only source of supply.

Few persons had property readily convertible into greenbacks, and Confederate money was being burned or used by the bale to paper rooms in the home of its[Pg 105] possessor. No man knew how to invest money that had escaped the absorption of war, and when he did invest it he usually lost it. For the next ten years what the sword had not devoured the “canker worm” (cotton worm, with us) ate up.

The people were in favor of reorganizing the States in accord with the Union. But the iniquities of carpet-bag governments and the diabolisms of “black and tan” conventions for a long time kept respectable men out of politics. It was indeed too “filthy a pool” to be entered. At a longer perspective this seems to have been a mistake. If the best men of the country had gone into the people’s service—as did General Longstreet with most patriotic but futile purpose—they might have arrested incessant lootings of the people’s hard-wrested tax-money and the nefarious legislation that enriched the despised carpet-bagger and scalawag—present, like the vultures, only for the prey after the battle. So many men, however, had been disfranchised by reason of Confederate service that it is doubtful if enough respectability was eligible for office, to have had any purifying effect on public affairs.

In this crisis our Northern friends advised us after the following fashion. Major A. L. Brewer, Mr. Merrick’s uncle, who had belonged to Sherman’s army, sent me, in 1865, a letter from New Lisbon, Ohio:

My dear Carrie,—Your devotion to Edwin makes you very dear to me. You know my attachment to him and that I regard him as a son. He was always[Pg 106] my favorite nephew. Since the war is over I trust that he will now take the oath of allegiance, and should he need any aid I can render it. The Secretary of War, Postmaster-General, Senators Nolle and Sherman of Ohio, and many others, are my staunch friends.

“As far as suffering is concerned you have had your share; but I would gladly have endured it for you if I could have saved my dear boy Charlie, who fell in battle. He was noble and brave, and my heart is chilled with grief for his loss.

“This was a foolish, unnatural war, and after four years of bloodshed and destruction I rejoice that it is over, and that discord will never again disturb the peace in our country. But the authors of the rebellion have paid dearly for their folly and wickedness. When I reflect upon the misery brought about by a few arch villains, I find it hard to control my feelings;—I should feel differently had they been the only sufferers. When I look upon the distress which has fallen upon the masses in the South, I have no sympathy for the instigators of the war.

“But, my dear, you have fared better than many who came within my observation; as I followed Sherman, I have seen whole plantations utterly destroyed, houses burnt and women and children driven into the woods without warning. The torch was applied to everything. Sometimes the women would save a few things, but in most cases they went forth bareheaded to make the ground their bed and the sky their roof. The next day when the hungry children came prowling around our camps in search of something to eat, the [Pg 107]Federal soldiers who left wives and children at home, and who had the hearts of men, were sorry for them. But such is the cruelty of war and military discipline.”

Captain Charles B. White, a West Point officer in the United States service in New Orleans, wrote my daughter Clara, after his return to New York, in this manner: “I find your experiences in the kitchen very amusing. Our Northern ladies have an idea that you of the South know nothing practically of housekeeping. Quite erroneous is it not? I have been for some time in Boston and find the girls here prettier as a class, than those of any other city I have visited, not excepting Baltimore. They are so sensible and self-assisting. You see that army people look at the practical side of life. As our salaries are not large it is essential that our domestic establishments should be as good as possible with the least outlay of cash. We are therefore compelled to think of our future life companions in the light of these considerations.

“It is very agreeable to be here with those in full accord on social and political subjects,—not that I am a politician; but since we are the victors, I hold that we cannot ignore the principles for which we fought. I think that it behooves Wade Hampton, Toombs, Cobb and Robert Ould to hold their tongues, and to be thankful that they are not punished for their evil deeds, rather than be so blatant of their own shame. I am sorry to find you in favor of Mr. Seymour. He is from my own State, but he is a blot upon it; personally he is a gentleman,—as far as a dough-face and a [Pg 108]copper-head can be one. A few Northern politicians may, for self-interest, humble themselves and praise traitors, but the masses are as much disposed as ever to make treason odious. The South ought not again to fall into the error of 1860, and estrange their real friends, and irritate the Northern masses. We have undisguised admiration for General Longstreet and his class who became reconstructed and attend to business.

“I do not admire Mr. S. W. Conway nor other adventurers in Louisiana, but their opponents are still more unreasonable and unprincipled. It will take me some time to become convinced that plantation negroes will make good legislators. I have not been in favor of negro suffrage, but now it seems the only expedient left us for the reconstruction of the turbulent South. All sorts of lies are trumped up by the Democrats about Grant and Colfax. I always object to personal abuse in a political controversy.

“I see my services will be no longer required in Louisiana, and my leave expires next month. I see with equal clearness that beyond my immediate circle of friends I shall scarcely be missed. How humbling to a conceited man, who thinks himself essential, to return and find the household going on just as well without him!”

With such amenities of intercourse between the conquered and the conquerors it may not seem to some observers extraordinary that reconstruction progressed so slowly. Mr. Richard Grant White said in the North American Review respecting the great struggle of the Sections: “The South had fought to maintain an[Pg 109] inequality of personal rights and an aristocratic form of society. The North had fought, not in a crusade for equality and against aristocracy, but for money—after the first flush of enthusiasm caused by ‘firing on the flag’ had subsided. The Federal Government was victorious simply because it had the most men and the most money. The Confederate cause failed simply because its men and its money were exhausted; for no other reason. Inequality came to an end in the South; equality was established throughout the Union; but the real victors were the money-makers, merchants, bankers, manufacturers, railwaymen, monopolists and speculators. It was their cause that had triumphed under the banners of freedom.”

Words cannot give so strong a confirmation of the above as the fact of the South’s pitiful 175,000 men against the 1,000,000 men of the North mustered out of service after the surrender. But it is not my purpose to enter upon the history of the civil war farther than it touched my own life.

“Write our story as you may,
————————but even you,
With your pen, could never write
Half the story of our land——
“Warrior words—but even they
Fail as failed our men in gray;——
Fail to tell the story grand
Of our cause and of our land.”

A pretty young creature said to her aged relative: “Why, money can never make people happy!”

[Pg 110]“No, my child,” replied the old lady, “but it can make them very comfortable.” The South learned in the direst way—through the want of it—the comfort of money. It has learned also through the aggressions of trusts and monopolies how comfortable and dangerous a thing money may prove to be to the liberties of a people. It was during the war and soon after it that vast fortunes were made at the North.

The South has long ago accepted its destiny as an integral element of the United States and the great American people. It has set its face resolutely forward with historic purpose. It clings to its past only as its traditions and practices safe-guarded constitutional rights and the integrity of a true republic. Its simpler social structure has enabled it to keep a clearer vision of the purposes of our forefathers in government than the North, with its tremendous infiltration of foreigners ingrained with monarchical antecedents, and with the complex interests of many classes. Never, perhaps, so much as now has a “solid South” been needed to help to keep alive the principles of true democracy. But “old, sore cankering wounds that pierced and stung,—throb no longer.”

Money is comfort, but love is happiness. The love of one God and a common country “has welded fast the links which war had broken.”

The negro question of the South has become the problem of the nation. This is retributive justice; for the North introduced slavery into the colonial provinces, and sold the slaves to the South when they had ceased to be profitable in Massachusetts. The South found[Pg 111] them renumerative and kept them. This branch of the subject may be dismissed with the reflection that it is a disposition common to humanity to use any sort of sophistry to excuse or palliate bias of feeling and departures in conduct from the right way. Everybody—North and South—is equally glad that slavery is now abolished, notwithstanding differences of opinion as to the methods by which it was accomplished.

Judge Tourgee, in his “Fool’s Errand,” said: “The negroes were brought here against their will. They have learned in two hundred years the rudiments of civilization, the alphabet of religion, law, mechanic arts, husbandry. Freed without any great exertion upon their part, enfranchised without any intelligent or independent cooperation—no wonder they deem themselves the special pets of Providence.” Seven years ago when cotton was selling for four cents a pound and starvation was staring in the face alike the planter and the negro tenant, the owner of a large plantation said to one of her old slaves: “Oh, these are dreadful times, Maria! How are we to live through them! I’m distressed for the people on the place. I fear they will suffer this winter!” “Lor, Miss Annie,” Maria replied, “I ain’t ’sturbin’ my mine ’bout it. White folks dun tuk keer me all my life an’ I spec’s they gwine ter keep on ter the eend!” The negro Providence is “white folks.” If they seem a bit slow in doling out to their desire they know how to help themselves, and it is well they do.

The sudden freedom of the black man as a war measure and his enfranchisement as a political necessity[Pg 112] of the Republican party was a social earthquake for the South and a sort of moral cataclysm for the North. The one was too stunned by the shock, the other too delirious with success to be able to grasp the portent of such an event in the national life. The North approached it with abolition, fanaticism, and expected the liberated slave to be an ally of freedom of which he had no true conception. The South was an instinctive and hereditary ruler, and the freedman was overrunning its daily life and traditions. It is not wonderful that the negro has suffered in this conflict of antagonistic ideas.

The enfranchisement of the old slave has set back the development of the South for a generation, because it has been compelled to gauge all its movements on the race line. It has hindered the North for an equal time because the political value of the colored brother to the Republican party has seemed to overshadow every other phase of his development. But schooling and training can remodel even the prejudices of intelligent minds and sincere natures. Thirty-five years of mistakes have convinced both North and South that the negro has been long enough sacrificed to political interests.

Those only who have long lived where the negro equals or outnumbers the white population can understand his character, and the grave problem now confronting this nation.

The danger of enfranchising a large class uninstructed in the duties of citizenship and totally ignorant of any principles of government, will prove an [Pg 113]experiment not in vain if it enforces on the people of the United States the necessity to restrict suffrage to those who are trained in the knowledge and spirit of American institutions. It should serve to emphasize the unwisdom and injustice of denying the ballot because of sex to one half of its American born citizens who, by education and patriotism, are qualified for the highest citizenship. Our government will never become truly democratic until it lives up to its own principles, “No taxation without representation, no government without the consent of the governed.” Suffrage should be the privilege of those only who have acquired a right to it by educating themselves for its responsibilities. A proper educational qualification for the ballot, without sex or color lines, would actualize our vision of “a government for the people, of the people and by the people,” and would eliminate the ignorant foreigner of all nationalities and colors, as well as the white American who is too indolent or unintelligent to fit himself for the duties of citizenship.

Happily the true friend of the Afro-Americans, North and South, begins to distinguish between their accidental and their permanent well-being. The negro himself is coming to realize that he must make the people with whom he lives his best friends; that the conditions which are for the good of the whites of his community are good for him; that his development must be economic instead of political; that only as he learns to cope with the Anglo-Saxon as a breadwinner will he become truly a freed man.

The African in the South is better off than any[Pg 114] laboring class on earth. His industrial conditions have less stress in them. He is seldom out of work unless by his own choice or inefficiency. The climate is in his favor. In the agricultural districts land is cheap for purchase or rent. Gardens, stock, poultry and fruit are easily at his command. For little effort he is well clothed and well fed. Fuel costs him only the gathering. The soil responds freely to his careless cultivation. In the trades no distinctions are made between the white and the colored mechanic as to wages or opportunity. There is no economic prejudice against him; he is freely employed by the whites even as a contractor. But the Southern white will “ride alone”—even in a hearse—rather than ride with the negro socially outside the electric cars. Otherwise his old master is the negro’s best friend. A study of the State Report of Education will convince the most skeptical that the public school fund is divided proportionally with the colored schools, though the whites pay nearly the whole tax. Besides, while Ohio, and perhaps other Northern States, prohibit negro teachers in the public schools, the South, with a view to rewarding as well as stimulating the ambition of the student, gives the preference to colored teachers for their own schools.

Removed from the arena of politics the black man has no real enemy but himself. It will not do to judge the masses by the few who have been able to lift themselves above their fellows. Their religion is emotional, often without moral standards. Some of them are indolent, improvident and shiftless to a degree that largely affects white prosperity. But though they have [Pg 115]faults which do not even “lean to virtue’s side,” they are good-natured, teachable, forgiving, loving and lovable.


Becky Coleman


The nation should look with encouragement and gratitude to Booker T. Washington as the real Moses who, by industrial education, proposes to lead his people out of their real bondage. Only by making themselves worthy will they be able to exist on kindly terms with the white race. The same slow process of the ages which has wrought out Anglo Saxon civilization will elevate this race. Nature’s law of growth for them, as for white people, is struggle. The fittest will survive.



[Pg 116]



The war fully ended and our city home recovered, we removed to New Orleans. I devoted myself wholly to my family and to domestic affairs. Friends gathered about us and some delightful people made our neighborhood very pleasant. It was in my present home that my daughter Laura was married to Louis J. Bright, and soon after, Clara was united to James B. Guthrie; both young men were settled in New Orleans, so that I was spared the pain of total separation. My son David established himself on his own plantation in Point Coupe, and soon after married Miss Lula Dowdell of Alabama. Our summers were spent alternately in Myrtle Grove and the North, or the Virginia Springs.

Mothers are usually held responsible for the shortcomings of their children. Sometimes this is just, but children often cruelly misrepresent good parents. It should never be forgotten that mothers and children are very human, and that the vocation upon which young people enter with least training is parenthood. Children and parents get their training together. It takes love and wisdom and proper environment to bring both to their best; but sometimes evil hereditary and vicious social institutions prove stronger than all of these [Pg 117]combined forces of the home. The nation can never know the power and beauty of the mother until it evolves a true protective tenderness for the child, and encompasses it with safest conditions for its development. It is a growing wonder that women have borne so long in silence the existence of establishments which the State fosters to the debasement of their sons. Only the habit of subjection—the legacy of the ages—could have produced this pathetic stoicism. If a horse knew his strength, no man could control him. When women realize their God-given power, the community in which their children are born will not tempt them to their death by the open saloon, the gambling den and the haunt of shame. Until that happy time the inexhaustible supply of love and sympathy which goes out from the mother-heart is the child’s chiefest shelter. Obedience is what parents should exact from infants if they expect it from grown children. The slaves of the severer masters stayed with them during the war, when those of indulgent ones ran away. It is the petted, spoiled darlings whose ultimate “ingratitude is sharper than the serpent’s tooth.”

When friends were won by my daughters it was gratifying to me, for it proved that the womanly accomplishment of making themselves beloved was a lesson they had laid to heart—and they had learned it by their own fireside where love ruled and reigned. I was glad in all my children, and a devoted mother is sure of her ultimate reward. I was very proud when Clara replied to a friend who expressed surprise that she should visit me on my reception day: “I should be[Pg 118] happy to claim a half-hour of my mother’s society if she were not related to me.” I was very content with my two daughters happily married and settled near me—doubly mine by the tie of congenial tastes and pursuits.

In 1878 my household had gone North for the summer. On September 1st a telegram reached me at Wilbraham, Mass., saying, “Laura died at 12 o’clock, M.” I had plead with her to leave New Orleans with me, but in her self-sacrificing devotion to her husband, who was never willing that she should be absent from him, she remained at home and fell a victim in the great yellow fever epidemic.

Previous to her marriage she had spent all her summers in the country or in travel, and was wholly unacclimated. Clara wrote thus to Captain S. M. Thomas from Sewanee, Tenn., in September of that dreadful year: “The pity of it, Uncle Milton! You will understand how it is with us at this time. Mother is broken-hearted. You have ever been a large figure in Laura’s and my girlhood recollections, and mother asks me to write to you. Laura Ellen’s death was just as painful as it could be. Father and mother were in Wilbraham, and every one of us gone but dear, good cousin Louise Brewer, and Louis—her husband. Oh! he made a terrible mistake in remaining in that doomed city. I have an added pang that I shall carry with me till I too go away—that I was not with her in her supreme hour.

“The dear girl wrote daily to mother, David, and me, until death snatched away her pen. ‘Fear not for[Pg 119] me, dearest mother,’ was on her last postal card. ‘My trust is in God.’ It were enough to make an angel weep if the true history of this awful summer could be written. Our grief is without any alleviation—unless in sister’s beautiful character and Christian life. If I had been there I should have tried with superhuman efforts to hold her back from death. It was Sunday—and Dr. Walker dismissed his congregation at Felicity church to go, at her request, to her deathbed. He has told us of her great faith, her willingness to go, the perfect clearness of her mind, and the calm fortitude she manifested even when she kissed her children good-by. Breathing softly she went to sleep and closed her sweet blue eyes on this world—forever.

“Cousin Louise says Louis was nearly frantic. It is a terrible blow, and he has the added pain of knowing it might have been different but for the fatal mistake of judgment which brought such awful results. I have to school myself, and fight every day a new battle for calmness and resignation. I shall never grow accustomed to the hard fact that her bright and heavenly presence must be forever wanting in her own home, and shall never again grace mine. She died saying, ‘Jesus is with me!’ Well He might be, for she died, as He, sacrificing herself for others.”

There was no one too old or too poor, or too uninteresting to receive Laura’s attention. Sometimes this disposition annoyed me; but though I did not always recognize it, she was always living out the divine altruism of Christ. She was ever active in charities and a useful director of St. Ann’s Asylum.

[Pg 120]Among many others I gather the following expressions in letters from those who had known her intimately: “Nobody feared her, everybody loved her. She was an angel for forgiving. The brightness in her life came from the angelic cheerfulness of her own soul, which would not yield to outward conditions. She had an infinite capacity for getting joy out of barren places.”—“I do not hope to know again a nature so blended in sweetness and strength. It is no common chance that takes away a noble mind—so full of meekness yet with so much to justify self-assertion. There was an atmosphere of grace, mercy and peace floating about her, edifying and delighting all who came near.”

Coming from a long line of tender, gentle, saintly women—the Brewers on the Merrick side—she belonged to that type celebrated in story and embalmed in song, of which nearly every generation of Brewers has produced at least one representative human angel.

A more than full measure of days has convinced me that among our permanent joys are the friends who have drifted with our own life current. In addition to the pleasure of communion with lofty and sympathetic spirits such friendships have the “tendency to bring the character into finer life.” “A new friend,” says Emerson, “entering our house is an era in our true history.” Our friends illustrate the course of our conduct. It is the progress of our character that draws them about us. Among those friends whom the struggling years after the war brought to me was Mrs. Anita Waugh, a Boston woman; a sojourner in Europe while her father was U. S. Minister to Greece, a long-time[Pg 121] resident of Cuba, and, during the period in which I made her acquaintance, a teacher in New Orleans. In an old letter to one of my children I find: “Mrs. Waugh makes much of your mother. She is happier for having known me. I have been helped by her to some knowledge from the vast store-house which may never be taken account of—still I here make the acknowledgment.”

Frances Willard said of her, “She is rarely gifted, and I enjoy her thought—so different from my own practical life. She is a seer (see-er)!”

Her wide acquaintance with remarkable people invested her with rare interest. In one of her many letters to me, dated in 1873, she says with fine catholicity of spirit and exceptional insight: “I think the so-called religious world lays too much stress on the infidelity of such men as Tyndall and Huxley and Spencer. They have not reached the point in their spiritual growth where knowledge opens the domain of real, pure worship; they are in a transition period, are still groping about in a world of effects, living in a world of results of which they have not yet found the cause. Spencer has given the most masterly exposition of the nervous system which has yet been made. The next step would have been into the domain of the spiritual. Here he stopped, because his mind has not yet reached the degree of development in which the utterances of truth perceived becomes the highest duty. When he shall have rounded and brought up all of his studies to a point equally advanced with his Psychology then he will be obliged to say, ‘My God and my Lord!’ I hope he may[Pg 122] soon, as Longfellow said, ‘Touch God’s right hand in the darkness.’”

Science—and the Church—did not long have to wait for the Wallace and Henry Drummond of Mrs. Waugh’s intuition.

During repeated visits to the Yellow Sulphur Springs in Virginia, Mr. Merrick and I were seated at table with the famous Confederate Commanders, General Jubal Early and General G. T. Beauregard, who had become additionally conspicuous by their connection with the Louisiana lottery. General Beauregard called frequently upon us, and I met him also at Waukesha, in Wisconsin. He was very kind to me, and greatly enjoyed hearing some of my nonsensical dialect readings. At the latter place the women were much impressed by his handsome and distinguished appearance and manners. When he called at my hotel many of them were eager in their entreaties to be introduced; our gallant general would bow graciously, but they were not to be satisfied unless he would also take them by the hand.

On February 24, 1893, General Beauregard was lying in state on his bier in the City Hall of New Orleans, and I was holding a convention of the Louisiana W. C. T. U. I could not help alluding to the death of this beloved old soldier, and I asked the women to go and look upon his handsome face for the last time. He was a perfect type of his class—courtly, generous, chivalrous. He had been in the Mexican war, and was the only general of the old Confederacy who belonged in New Orleans. The hearts of the people were touched, and when the[Pg 123] meeting adjourned many groups of W. C. T. U. women were added to the crowds who went to look their last upon the face of the dead. Miss Points was pleased to say in the New Orleans Picayune: “It was a beautiful act on the part of our women; and it acquired a new significance and beauty in that it was the outgrowth of the strong friendship and appreciation of the wife of the distinguished man who was our Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in the days of the Confederacy.” This was a tribute which she reminded them to offer to one of the dead heroes of our late war between the states!

“The great effort of courage I have made in my life was going in a skiff in an overflow, with Stephen and Allen, two inexperienced negro rowers, to Red River Landing in order to reach a steamboat for New Orleans, where, at the close of the war, I wanted to get supplies for my family and for my neighbors, who were in extremities by reason of the crevasse. That was an act of bravery—hunger forced it—which astonished into exclamation the captain of a Federal gunboat, Capt. Edward P. Lull, who made me take the oath of allegiance before I could leave. You know how afraid I am of water and of any little boat; but give men or women a sufficiently powerful motive and they can do anything.”



[Pg 124]



In those broken-hearted days Clara said with a pathetic earnestness: “Now I must try to be two daughters to you. You have not lost all your children—only your best child.” We drew nearer and more mutually dependent as time passed, each trying to fill the awful void for the other. How could I dream that the insatiable archer was only waiting, with fatal dart in rest, to claim another victim? We made common joy as well as sorrow, and tried to lead each other out into the sunlit places, the simple pleasures of home and social life.

Early in the year 1897 a State Constitutional Convention was assembled in New Orleans. The legal inequality of woman in Louisiana had already challenged the notice of some women, and a recent incident was outraging the hearts of a few who had the vision of seers. The Board of Control of St. Ann’s Asylum—an institution in New Orleans for the relief of destitute women and children—was composed entirely of women. A German inmate on her deathbed revealed that she had $1,000 in bank, and by a will, witnessed by members of the Board, she bequeathed it to the institution which[Pg 125] had sheltered her. On submission of the will to probate, the ladies were informed that it was invalid, because a woman was not a legal witness to a will. The bequest went to the State—and the women went to thinking and agitating.

Mrs. Elizabeth L. Saxon urged that we should appear before the Convention with our grievances. I did not feel equal to such an effort, but Mrs. Saxon said: “Instead of grieving yourself to death for your daughter who is gone, rise up out of the ashes and do something for the other women who are left!” My husband insisted that, having always wanted to do something for women, now was my opportunity. Mrs. Saxon and I drew up the following petition:

“To the Honorable President and Members of the Convention of the State of Louisiana, convened for the purpose of framing a new Constitution:

“Petition of the undersigned, citizens of the State of Louisiana, respectfully represents:

“That up to the present time, all women, of whatever age or capacity, have been debarred from the right of representation, notwithstanding the burdensome taxes which they have paid.

“They have been excluded from holding office save in cases of special tutorship in limited degree—or of administration only in specified cases.

“They have been debarred from being witnesses in wills or notarial acts, even when executed by their own sex.

“They look upon this condition of things as a grievance[Pg 126] proper to be brought before your honorable body for consideration and relief.

“As a question of civilization, we look upon the enfranchisement of women as an all important one. In Wyoming, where it has been tried for ten years, the Lawmakers and Clergy unite in declaring that this influx of women voters has done more to promote law, morality and order, than thousands of armed men could have accomplished.

“Should the entire franchise seem too extended a privilege, we most earnestly urge the adoption of a property qualification, and that women may also be allowed a vote on school and educational matters, involving as they do the interests of women and children in a great degree.

“So large a proportion of the taxes of Louisiana is paid by women, many of them without male representatives, that in granting consideration and relief for grievances herein complained of, the people will recognize Justice and Equity; that to woman as well as man ‘taxation without representation is tyranny,’ she being ‘a person, a citizen, a freeholder, a taxpayer,’ the same as man, only the government has never held out the same fostering, protecting hand to all alike, nor ever will, until women are directly represented.

“Wherefore, we, your petitioners, pray that some suitable provision remedying these evils be incorporated in the Constitution you are about to frame.”

Four hundred influential names were secured to the petition, Mrs. Saxon, almost unaided, having gained three hundred of them. It was sent to the Convention[Pg 127] and referred to the Committee on Suffrage, which on May 7 invited the ladies to a conference at the St. Charles Hotel. Mrs. Mollie Moore Davis, Colonel and Mrs. John M. Sandige, Mr. and Mrs. Saxon were present. Dr. Harriette C. Keating, a representative woman in professional life, Mrs. Elizabeth L. Saxon, already a well-known and fearless reformer, and Caroline E. Merrick, as the voice of home, were chosen to appear before the Convention on the evening of June 16, 1879. Eighty-six members of the Convention were present; a half hundred representatives of “lovely woman” were there. Mrs. Myra Clark Gaines, the celebrated litigant, with a few other notables, occupied the middle of the floor, and youth and beauty retired into a corner. Mr. Poche, chairman of the Suffrage Committee, and afterward a member of the Supreme Court of the State, asked me if I were afraid. “Afraid,” I said, “is not the word. I’m scared almost to death!” He tried to encourage me by recounting the terrors of many men similarly placed.

Mrs. Keating was first introduced, and, at the Secretary’s desk, in a clear voice, with dignified self-possession set forth the capabilities of women for mastering political science sufficiently to vote intelligently on questions of the day. Mrs. Saxon following, was greeted with an outburst of welcome. She reviewed the customs of various nations to which women were required to conform, and called attention to the fact that the party which favored woman suffrage would poll twelve million votes. She made clear that the fact of sex could not qualify or disqualify for an intelligent vote:[Pg 128] she mentioned that numbers of women had told her they wanted to be present that night, but their husbands would not permit them to come.

Mrs. Elizabeth Lyle Saxon is a woman possessed of fine intellect and an uncommonly warm and generous nature. She was a pioneer in the Suffrage Cause in the South, and has ably represented its interests in National gatherings. She was sent as delegate from this State to the International Suffrage Association of the World’s Auxiliary Congress in 1893. All along the way she has given of her best with whole-hearted zeal to further the cause of women, and should claim the undying gratitude of those for whom she has helped to build the bridges of human equality.

Mr. Robertson, of St. Landry, then offered the resolution: “Resolved, That the Committee on elective franchise be directed to embody in the articles upon suffrage reported to this Convention, a provision giving the right of suffrage to women upon the same terms as to men.”

Under the rules this resolution had to lie over.

Fearing that I could not be heard, I had proposed that Mr. Jas. B. Guthrie, my son-in-law, should read my speech. But Mrs. Saxon said: “You do not wish a man to represent you at the polls; represent yourself now, if you only stand up and move your lips.” “I will,” I said. “You are right.” The following is my address in part:

“Mr. President and Delegates of the Convention:

“When we remember the persistent and aggressive efforts which our energetic sisters of the North have[Pg 129] exerted for so many years in their struggle before they could obtain a hearing from any legislative assembly, we find ourselves lost in a pleasing astonishment at the graciousness which beams upon us here from all quarters. Should we even now be remanded to our places, and our petition meet with an utter refusal, we should be grieved to the heart, we should be sorely disappointed, but we never could cherish the least feeling of rebellious spite toward this convention of men, who have shown themselves so respectful and considerate toward the women of Louisiana.

“Perhaps some of the gentlemen thought we did not possess the moral courage to venture even thus far from the retirement in which we have always preferred to dwell. Be assured that a resolute and conscientious woman can put aside her individual preferences at the call of duty, and act unselfishly for the good of others.

“The ladies who have already addressed you have given you unanswerable arguments, and in eloquent language have made their appeal, to which you could not have been insensible or indifferent. It only remains for me to give you some of my own individual views in the few words which are to conclude this interview.

“The laws on the statute books permit us to own property and enjoy its revenues, but do not permit us to say who shall collect the taxes. We are thus compelled to assist in the support of the State in an enforced way, when we ourselves would greatly prefer to do the same thing with our own intelligent, free consent.

“We know this Republic has been lauded in the old[Pg 130] times of the Fourth of July orations as the freest, best government the world ever saw. If women, the better half of humanity, were allowed a voice and influence in its councils, I believe it would be restored to its purity and ancient glory; and a nobler patriotism would be brought to life in the heart of this nation.

“It seems to me that there ought to be a time, to which we may look forward with satisfaction, when we shall cease to be minors, when the sympathy and assistance we are so capable of furnishing in the domestic relation, may in a smaller degree be available for the good and economical management of public affairs. It really appears strange to us, after we have brought up children and regulated our houses, where often we have the entire responsibility, with money and valuables placed in our charge, that a man can be found who would humiliate us by expressing an absolute fear to trust us with the ballot.

“In many nations there is an army of earnest, thoughtful, large-hearted women, working day and night to elevate their sex; for their higher education; to open new avenues for their industrious hands; trying to make women helpers to man, instead of millstones round his neck to sink him in his life struggle.

“Ah, if we could only infuse into your souls the courage which we, constitutionally timid as we are, now feel on this subject, you would not only dare but hasten to perform this act of justice and inaugurate the beginning of the end which all but the blind can see is surely and steadily approaching. We are willing to accept anything. We have always been in the position of[Pg 131] beggars, as now, and cannot be choosers if we wished. We shall gladly accept the franchise on any terms, provided they be wholly and entirely honorable. If you should see proper to subject us to an educational test, even of a high order, we would try to attain it; if you require a considerable property qualification, we would not complain. We would be only too grateful for any amelioration of our legal disabilities. Allow me to ask, are we less prepared for the intelligent exercise of the right of suffrage than were the freedmen when it was suddenly conferred upon them?

“Perhaps you think only a few of us desire the ballot. Even if this were true, we think it would not be any sufficient reason for withholding it. In old times most of our slaves were happy and contented. Under the rule of good and humane masters, they gave themselves no trouble to grasp after the unattainable freedom which was beyond their reach. So it is with us to-day. We are happy and kindly treated (as witness our reception to-night), and in the enjoyment of the numerous privileges which our chivalrous gentlemen are so ready to accord; many of us who feel a wish for freedom do not venture even to whisper a single word about our rights. For the last twenty-five years I have occasionally expressed a wish to vote, and it was always received with surprise; but the sort of effect produced was as different as the characters of the individuals with whom I conversed. I cannot see how the simple act of voting can hurt or injure a true and noble woman any more than it degrades the brave and honorable man.

“Gentlemen of the Convention, we now leave our[Pg 132] cause in your hands, and commend it to your favorable consideration. We have pointed out to you the signs of the dawning of a better day for woman, which are so plain before our eyes, and implore you to reach out your hands and help us to establish that free and equal companionship which God ordained in the beginning in the Garden of Eden before the serpent came and curses fell.”

Mrs. Sarah A. Dorsey was prevented by illness, which terminated fatally, from appearing personally, but sent a letter which was read before the Convention by Col. John M. Sandige. She advanced, among others, the following ideas: “Being left by the fiat of God entirely alone in the world, with no man to represent me; having large interests in the State, and no voice either in representation or taxation, while hundreds of my negro lessees vote and control my life and property, I feel that I ought to say one word that may aid many other women whom fate has left equally destitute. I ask representation for taxation—for my sisters and for the future race. We do not expect to do men’s work, we can never pass the limits which nature herself has set. But we ask for justice; we ask for the removal of unnatural restrictions that are contrary to the elemental spirit of the civil law; we do not ask for rights, but for permission to assume our natural responsibilities.”

Mrs. Dorsey was a native of Mississippi, and became widely conspicuous by reason of the bequest of her home, Beauvoir, and other personal property, to Mr. Jefferson Davis. She made this will because, as mentioned in the document, “I do not intend to share in the ingratitude[Pg 133] of my country toward the man who is, in my eyes, the highest and noblest in existence.” Mrs. Elisha Warfield, of Kentucky, was the aunt of Mrs. Dorsey, and the author of the novel “Beauvoir,” from which the plantation was named, and which estate Mrs. Dorsey devoted to the cultivation of oranges. She was a rarely gifted woman. Besides the usual accomplishments of women of her day, she possessed remarkable musical skill, and was a pupil of Bochsa, owning the harp which he had taught her to handle as a master. She was a writer of power and had studied law and book-keeping. A friend who was present in her last illness wrote me: “She appeared to greater advantage in her home than anywhere else. She was of those whom one comes to know soon and to love; and is one of the many who have passed on, with whom the meeting again is looked forward to with true delight.”

When the new Constitution was promulgated it contained but one little concession to women: “Art. 232.—Women twenty-one years of age and upwards shall be eligible to any office of control or management under the school laws of the State.”

The women of Louisiana have realized no advantage from this law. Their first demand was for a place on the school board of New Orleans, in 1885. The governor fills by appointment all school offices. Gov. McEnery ruled that Art. 232 of the Constitution was inoperative until there should be legislation to enforce it, the existing statutes of Louisiana barring a woman from acting independent of her husband, and would make the husband of a married woman a co-appointee[Pg 134] to any public office; that a repeal of this in solido statute was necessary before he could place a woman on the school board.

Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s seventieth birthday was on Nov. 12 of this year. In her honor a special reception was held by the Woman’s Club of New Orleans. I here reviewed the action of the governor in a paper which set forth the following points: First, that the Constitution is imperative; that legislation for its self-acting and absolute provisions would be to place the creature in control of the creator. Second, that the legislature had no jurisdiction over the eligibility of women to appointment on school boards, as the Constitution had explicitly declared that “women twenty-one and upwards shall be eligible.” Third, if the governor’s objection against married women were valid it had no force against unmarried women and widows.

Protest, however, proved futile. No succeeding governor appointed a woman, so no test case was ever made, and the Constitutional Convention of 1898 repealed this little shadow of justice to women, even in the face of the fact that at the time the small concession was made one-half of the 80,000 children in the public schools of New Orleans were girls, and 368 out of the 389 teachers were women.

In 1880 I met General and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, at a private reception given at the home of Hon. Walker Fearn, in New Orleans. The General was a handsome, soldierly man. I told him that we had mutual[Pg 135] friends, and named Bishop Simpson, whom, with his wife, I had entertained, and liked because of his liberal views toward women. “That,” said General Grant, “is what I object to.” “Oh, General,” I answered, “I hope that you would not be unwilling that we should have the ballot?” “No, Mrs. Merrick, I should not be unwilling that you and Mrs. Grant should vote, but I should seriously object to confer that responsibility on Bridget, your cook.” I had always heard that General Grant could not talk, and was surprised to find him so genial and agreeable. Knowing me to be a Southern woman, he questioned me keenly and intelligently about the people of my section. I had a half-hour of delightful conversation with him, which he, equally with myself, seemed to enjoy.

During the year 1881 Miss Genevieve Ward was filling an engagement at the Grand Opera House in New Orleans. This winning actress was a descendant of Jonathan Edwards, the renowned Puritan preacher, and at that time was in her prime. At the request of her husband’s relatives in New York, my daughter entertained this famous lady at a lunch party, where I was present. We found her a dignified, modest woman, and, like Charlotte Cushman, above reproach. She was an intimate friend of the great Ristori. Among our twelve guests was Geo. W. Cable, already become famous. His last book, with all of our autographs in it, was given to Miss Ward as a souvenir of the occasion.

My daughter had known Mr. Cable in his early literary ventures. He sometimes brought chapters of his manuscript to read to her. The South realized at once[Pg 136] that a new literary artist had arisen out of its sea of ruin. That he wounded the feelings of some of his people is largely attributable to the fact that he spoke inopportunely; his work was cast upon the tolerance of public opinion when every nerve was bleeding and every heart hypersensitive to suggestion or criticism. It was too early an expression, and fell upon bristling points of indignant protest. But that he deeply loved his own city and people the most prejudiced can scarcely doubt, now that the perspective of three decades has softened the asperities of judgment. Only a soul that had made it his own could picture as he has done the silence, the weirdness, the majesty of the moss-draped swamps of lower Louisiana, the crimson and purple of the sunsets mirrored upon the glistening surface of her black, shallow bayous,—the sparse and flitting presence of man and beast and bird across this still-life making it but the more desolate. Cable was the first to see the rich types afforded to literature in the character, condition and history of the Creoles, and he has transformed them into immortals. Only love can create “pictures of life so exquisitely clear, delicately tender or tragically sorrowful” as he has made of the Latin-Americans. The South has already forgiven his historical frankness in its pride in the artist who has preserved for the future the romance, and color, and beauty of a race that, like so much else lovable and poetic and inspiring in our early history, by the end of another century will be blended indistinguishably with the less picturesque but all-prevailing type that is determining an American people.

[Pg 137]I had been so impressed by his genius that I could not withhold from him my word of appreciation, and received in 1879 the following reply to my note: “I want to say to you that you are the first Southerner who has expressed gratitude to the author of ‘Old Creole Days’ for telling the truth. That has been my ambition, and to be recognized as having done it a little more faithfully than most Southern writers is a source of as hearty satisfaction as I have ever enjoyed. How full our South is of the richest material for the story writer!

“G. W. Cable.”

About this time Clara and the author of “Innocents Abroad” were guests together in the same home in Buffalo, New York, from which place she wrote me: “He is a wonderfully liberal yet clever talker. I think I shall be able to d-r-a-w-l like him by two o’clock to-morrow, when he leaves. He has written in my Emerson birthday book. When he found the selection for November 30th to be that high and severely noble type of an ideal gentleman, he laughed at its inappropriateness, and said: ‘With my antecedents and associations it is impossible that I can be a gentleman, as I often tell my wife—to her furious indignation;’—so he signs himself ‘S. L. Clemens, née Mark Twain,’ in allusion to his early career as a pilot, and the name by which the world first knew him. I like him immensely, and shall doubtless weary you some morning with a reproduction of his numerous unfoldings.”

I also met Mr. Clemens socially at Mr. Cable’s house.[Pg 138] Many years before, I had seen Charlotte Cushman in the White Mountains. We were one day together in the same stage. An opportunity offering, with much delight Miss Cushman mounted to the top. She made her first appearance as Lady Macbeth in New Orleans. She looked the “Meg Merrilies” she had re-created for the world,—a vigorous woman in mind, body and character, and a gifted talker; nobody else was listened to when she was present. She bore in her face the earnestness of her spirit, the tragedy of her struggles, the intensity of her sympathy and the calm strength of her success.

Not long before her death I met Mrs. Eliza Leslie in Philadelphia. I was exceedingly glad of this opportunity, for she was one of the few premature women who had a message to give, and who did give it, notwithstanding in doing so she had to bear the disgrace of being a “blue-stocking.” She was a very quiet and dignified woman. I saw that she was quite bored by the loud talking of some small literary pretenders who were endeavoring to astonish her by their remarks on French drama. One offered to read to her an original poem, and the others assured her that she alone of American women was capable of rendering the true spirit of a French play. She talked with me about the South. She said she was glad to know that she had Southern readers and friends, and that if ever she visited the South it would be without prejudices. I thought of her sweet dishes, and I longed to ask her about the size of that “piece of butter as big as a hickory-nut” which, along with a gill of rosewater, her cook-book constantly recommended, to my as [Pg 139]constant perplexity and amusement. (Query—What sized hickory-nut?)

The next year in February, 1882, I dined at Mrs. Guthrie’s with Edwin Booth and his daughter Edwina. He was then at his best, and forty-nine years of age. I saw him at that time as Hamlet. He was a very modest man and dreaded after-dinner speeches, saying they gave him a stage-fright, and that he always tried to sit by a guest who would promise to take his place when he could not say anything. He was shown a rare edition of Shakespere, and a disputed point being introduced, he read several pages aloud with remarkable effect, though reading in private was contrary to his habit. The day was Sunday, and he mentioned how delightful it was to him to be in a quiet Christian home during the sacred hours. Booth acquired no mannerisms with age. His art so mastered him—or he mastered it—that his simplicity of style increased with years, which implies that his character grew with his fame.

Without being a habitue of the theater, I have enjoyed it from time to time all along my life-road. There is undoubtedly much to object to in the modern stage. Its personnel, methods of presentation and the character of many of the plays should call down just and strong censure. But it seems to me no more wrong to act a drama than to write one. Faith in humanity and in the ultimate triumph of good leads me to the conclusion that if the better people directed patient, believing effort to the purification of the stage, the time would come when histrionic genius would be recognized and cherished to its full value; and the best people[Pg 140] would control the theater, and would crowd from it those debasing dramas which, as never before in our day, are having the encouragement of the leading social classes. It is time something were done—and the right thing—to make it at least “bad form” that young men and women should witness together the broadly immoral plays that have of late so much shocked all right-minded people. If one generation tolerates the breaking down of moral barriers in public thought, the next generation may witness in equal degree the destruction of personal morality. The stage is but the expression of an instinctive human passion to impersonate. Masquerading is the favorite game of every nursery. It has been well said that “a great human activity sustained through many decades always has some deep and vital impulse behind it; misuse and abuse of every kind cannot hide that fact and ought not to hide it.” An instinct cannot be destroyed, but it may be directed—and nature is never immoral. Will the church ever be able to discriminate between that which is intrinsically wrong and that which is wrong by use and misdirection, and will it set itself to study without prejudice the whole question of public amusements as a human necessity, bringing the divine law to their regeneration rather than to their condemnation? The existence of any evil presupposes its remedy.



[Pg 141]



In June, 1881, I spoke by invitation before the Alumnæ Association of Whitworth College, at Brookhaven, Mississippi,—a venerable institution under the care of the Methodist Episcopal Church South. I did not give those young women strong doctrine, but I set before them the duty to

“Learn the mystery of progression truly:—
Nor dare to blame God’s gifts for incompleteness.”

Bishop Keener, the well-known opponent of women’s public work, sat beside me on the platform. When the addresses were concluded, he pronounced them “very good.” “For women?” I asked. “No,” he returned, “for anybody!” I treated the gentlemen to some of the extemporaneous “sugar plums” which for a half century they have been accustomed to shower from the rostrum upon women—“just to let them see how it sounded.” Though it was against the rules, they applauded as if they were delighted.

I said: “Lest they should feel overlooked and slighted, I will say a word to the men—God bless them. Our hearts warm toward the manly angels—our rulers, guides, and protectors, to whom we confide all our[Pg 142] troubles and on whom we lay all our burdens. Oh! what a noble being is an honest, upright, fearless, generous, manly man! How such men endear our firesides, and adorn and bless our homes. How sweet is their encouragement of our timid efforts in every good word and work, and how grateful we are to be loved by these noble comforters, and how utterly wretched and sad this world would be, deprived of their honored and gracious presence. Again, I say God bless the men.”

This occasion was of moment to me, because it led to one of the chief events of my life—my friendship and work with Frances E. Willard. She had seen in the New Orleans Times the address I made at Brookhaven, and was moved to ask me if I could get her an audience in my city, which she had already visited without results. I had been invited to join the little band enlisted by Mrs. Annie Wittenmeyer, the first president of the National Woman’s Christian Temperance Union; but I had declined, saying that this temperance work was the most unpopular and hardest reform ever attempted. However, I looked up the remnant of the first society, and went with their good president, Mrs. Frances A. Lyons, to call on every minister in town, requesting each to announce the date of Miss Willard’s address, and to urge upon their congregations that they should hear her speak. We were uncommonly successful, even that princely Christian, Rev. B. F. Palmer, D. D., departing from the usual Presbyterian conservatism. The result was a large audience in Carondelet Methodist Church, of which Rev. Felix R. Hill was the brave pastor;—for it required no little moral courage at[Pg 143] that time to introduce a woman to speak, and to do it in a church, and on a subject upon which the public conscience was not only asleep, but which affronted even many Christians’ sense of personal liberty.

I remember that I remonstrated when Miss Willard removed her bonnet and stood with uncovered head. But I could find no fault with the noble expression of serene sadness on her clear-cut features and with the gentle humility and sweetness which emanated from her entire personality. Heavenly sentiments dropped in fitly chosen sentences with perfect utterance, as she argued for the necessity of a clear brain and pure habits in order to establish the Master’s kingdom on earth. The hearts of the people went out to her in spontaneous sympathy and admiration; and the brethren were ready to bid her God-speed, for they felt that this public appearance was due to an impelling conviction that would not let her be silent. Thus the New Orleans Methodist Church, that indomitable pioneer of reform, proclaimed “All hail! to Frances Willard and the glorious cause.”

Some effort had been made to attain this success. With Miss Willard’s telegram in hand, I had despatched a message to my son, Edwin T. Merrick, jr., and to the W. C. T. U., but the train arriving ahead of time, a carriage brought the expected guest and her companion, Miss Anna Gordon, to my door, where I alone received and welcomed them. After weary travels over thousands of miles and stoppages in as many towns, they were glad to rest a week in my home. I had sent out hundreds of cards for a reception. My house was thronged.[Pg 144] Distinguished members of the bench, the bar, the pulpit, the press and the literary world were present, and a large number of young women and men. Frances Willard came to most of these as a revelation—this unassuming, delicate, progressive woman, with her sweet, intellectual face, her ready gaiety and her extraordinarily enlarged sympathies, which seemed to put her spirit at once in touch with every one who spoke to her. She wore, I remember, a black brocaded silk and point lace fichu. She ever had the right word in the right place as she greeted each one who was presented.

She particularly desired to see Geo. W. Cable, who was present with his wife. “This is our literary lion to-night,” I said. “Oh, no!” he replied, “I come nearer being your house cat!” at which sally Miss Willard laughed. This visit was in March, 1882.

I did not attend all of Miss Willard’s meetings, and was greatly surprised when on returning from one of them she informed me that I was the president of the W. C. T. U. of New Orleans. I protested, and let her know I did not even have a membership in that body of women, she herself being for me the only object of interest in it. Finding that the source of power in my family resided ultimately in the head of the house, she wisely directed her persuasions in his direction. It was not long before I was advised by Mr. Merrick to come to terms and do whatever Miss Willard requested. This was the beginning of my work in the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and of a friendship which lasted until God called this lovely and gifted being to come up into a larger life.

[Pg 145]Mrs. Hannah Whitehall Smith aptly styled Frances Willard “one of God’s best gifts to the American womanhood of this century,” having done more to enlarge their sympathies, widen their outlook and develop their mental aspirations, than any other individual of our time. She inspired purpose and courage in every heart. She said: “Sisters, we have no more need to be afraid of the step ahead of us than of the one we have just taken.” Women have been ridiculed for their confidence in this glorious leader. It has been said that if Frances Willard had pushed a thin plank over a precipice, and had stepped out on it and said: “Come!” the White Ribbon host would have followed her to destruction. Yes, they certainly would have gone after her, for they had unwavering faith that her planks were safely lodged on solid foundations, plain to her clear sight, even when invisible to the rest of the world. I once told her that she had the fatal power attributed to the maelstrom which swallowed up ships caught in the circle of its attractions; that the women whom she wished to enlist in her work were equally powerless to resist her compelling force. She had a genius for friendships.

Nor were Miss Willard’s powers of attraction confined to her own sex. Her fascination for men of taste was evident to the end of her blessed life. Their letters of late date to her proved that “age could not wither nor custom stale her infinite variety.” Gifted men loved to sit at her feet; she was kindly disposed to the whole brotherhood. I have heard her say, “If there is a spectacle more odious and distasteful to me than a[Pg 146] man who hates women it is a woman who hates men.” She also said: “If there is anything on earth I covet that pertains to men it is their self-respect.” She combined in her work a wonderful grasp on details and all the attributes of a great general, and in her temperament the intellectual and the emotional qualities. This woman was capable of sympathy toward every human being; she possessed the rare “fellowship of humanity,” and while she called out the best and noblest aspirations in others, she was herself the gentlest and humblest and most ready to take reproof. She seemed incapable of envy and jealousy, and it used to be said at National Headquarters: “If you want a great kindness from Miss Willard it is only necessary to persecute her a little.” With all her discriminating insight into human nature, her social relations were simply her human relations; she had no time for “society”—only for humanity. She proved to the world that a woman can be strong-minded, gentle-mannered and sweet-hearted at the same time, and that the noblest are the simplest souls.

No truthful pen picture can be given of Miss Willard which does not include some account of the woman she loved best in the world. Lady Henry Somerset, whom she had long admired in the distance, she loved at first sight when this titled lady came to the World’s and National W. C. T. U. Conventions, at Boston, in 1891. The rank and file of her old friends were startled and sore to discover that the queen of their affections, always before so easy of access, was much absent after business hour in the Convention, from her headquarters[Pg 147] at the Revere House, and was with Lady Henry at the Parker House. This emulation of the first place in their leader’s regard for a time somewhat threatened the unity and peace of the White Ribbon Army in the United States. But Lady Somerset so swiftly made her own way into American hearts that the littleness of jealousy was discarded, and the women shared with Miss Willard high regard for this noble Englishwoman—the daughter of the Earl of Somers. The Review of Reviews styled her “a romance adorning English life.” She had only now come to believe that if the world’s woes are to be lessened, women must grapple bravely with their causes and range themselves on the side of those who struggle for justice; and that the heart and instinct and intellect of woman must be felt in the councils of nations. Thus she became the foremost woman in English reforms.

I sent a word to Lady Henry asking if she objected to being mentioned in these pages, and received the following characteristic reply:

Eastor Castle, Ledbury, Sept. 28, 1899.

Mrs. C. E. Merrick:

“My dear friend, I thank you very much indeed for your letter. The words you write about Frances touched my heart. She is indeed the woman of the century who has done more than any other to give woman her place, and yet retain her womanliness. Anything you care to say about me and my poor little efforts belongs to you. Believe me yours in our best and truest bond,

Isabel Somerset.”

[Pg 148]While the love I cherish for Frances Willard was shared, in such degree, with Lady Henry, making a common bond between us, it was Mrs. Hannah Whitehall Smith who introduced me to her in Boston. Writing afterward to Mrs. Harriet B. Kells, in Chicago, at National W. C. T. U. Headquarters in the Temple, I said: “Give my love to our peerless Frances, God bless her! You say she is happy in the enjoyment of the delectable society of Lady Henry Somerset. I would say God bless Lady Henry too! only she doesn’t need any blessing, having already everything on earth any one can wish for, with our chieftain’s heart superadded.”

Mrs. Kells repeated this to Lady Henry, who seemed much amused, but did not reveal whether there were yet any unsatisfied longings in her life. Many American hearts to-day say tenderly, “God bless Lady Henry!” for she is a sweet spirit, a brave soul, a true woman. It is no exaggeration to say that these two heroic women are chief historic figures in the records of their sex, and while they were needful to each other their united labor was more important for the world’s reforms.

So many arc-lights have been thrown on Miss Willard’s character that it may not be possible to add more to the world’s knowledge of her. Still I should like to make known a little of her self-revealings in letters to me, on points that illustrate her simple greatness. When the Red Cross was making its first essays in America, a postal card came which showed her friendliness to all worthy organizations: “The Red Cross is royal. No grander plan for ‘We, Us & Co.’ of North and South. If not in W. C. T. U. I should give myself[Pg 149] to it. The noblest spirits of all civilized lands are enlisted. Princes in the old world are its sponsors.”

Again, she wrote: “How do you like dear Miss Cobbe’s book, ‘Duties of Women’? I had a letter from her the other day and the creature said, to my astonishment and delight, that she was just as familiar with my name as I was with hers! And she the biggest woman of the age!”

No censure, abuse or disappointment seemed ever to destroy the sweet hopefulness of her spirit. At one time she wrote: “Somebody’s strictures in the New Orleans Picayune gave me many thoughts. I may come under criticism not only in these regards, but in others concerning which there may not have been expression. I sincerely desire to be a true and a growing Christian woman. Some friends can hold the mirror to our faults.”

All the world knows how her soul was moved that the church of God should uphold our Christian cause, and that the M. E. Conference should seat its women delegates. At that time her word came to me: “If the M. E. pastors don’t endorse our blessed gospel, so much the worse for them—in history, that’s all! ‘This train is going through; clear the track!’ I want you in a delegation to the General Conference in May. Will Mrs. Bishop Parker allow her name added? It is a blessed chance to put a blessed name to a most blessed use. Oh that he may see this for the sake of God and Home and Humanity!”

Frances Willard’s fearless mind threw a searchlight into any new thought that seemed worthy of exploration.[Pg 150] She investigated Swedenborgianism, Faith-healing, Psychic and Christian Science—if perchance she might find the soul of truth which is ever at the origin of all error. She was not afraid of the evolution of man, for she early realized that the works and word of God must harmonize; that when science and religion should better understand themselves and each other there could be no real conflict,—and she joyed in this larger vision. After a visit to my house, in 1896, she wrote thus to Judge Merrick: “Christ and His gospel are loyally loved, believed in and cherished by me, and have been all along the years; nor do I feel them to be inconsistent with avowing one’s position as an evolutionist: ‘When the mists have cleared away,’ how beautiful it will be to talk of the laws of the universe in our Father’s house, and to find again there those whom we have loved and lost—awhile. In this faith I am ever yours.

Frances E. Willard.

It is scarcely worth while to say that she often was the subject of the doctrinaire. At one time a noted advocate of the faith cure was her guest, and was using all diligence to lead Miss Willard to embrace her “higher life.” She said to this lady: “Come with me to-day to see a friend, a lovely woman, who seems to me to walk the higher life of faith in great beauty and peace and power for others. I think you will be kindred spirits.” The visit was made, and the two strangers fell into each other’s arms, as it were, in the intensity of their spiritual sympathy. On their return[Pg 151] to Rest Cottage, Miss Willard quietly said to her guest: “That friend is one of the most noted Christian Science healers.” Now this was the chiefest of heterodoxies to the faith-healer. “How I did enjoy her shocked astonishment,” Miss Willard gleefully said to me, “and I told her I was more than ever sure how truly one, in the depths of their natures and their essential faiths, are those who are sincerely seeking to know God.”

Frances Willard’s spiritual life was too overflowing and comprehensive to find expression in creeds. Her own new beatitude, “Blessed are the inclusive, for they shall be included,” is a fair statement of her doctrine as it related to her human ties, and to all the household of faith. Her whole law and gospel was “To love the Lord thy God with all thy heart—and thy neighbor as thyself:” and she found God in His works as well as in His Word, and His image in every beautiful soul that passed her way—and always her spirit ascended unto the Father. She herself was regenerate by love, and she expected love alone—enough of it—to transform the world. She wrote me: “Be it known unto thee that I believe—and always did—that the fact of life predicts the fact of immortality. Lonesome would it be indeed for us yonder in Paradise were not the trees and flowers and birds we loved alive, once more with us to make heaven homelike to our tender hearts. How rich is life in friendships, opportunity, loyalty, tenderness! To me these things translate themselves in terms of Christ. Perhaps others speak oftener of Him, and have more definite conceptions of Him as an entity; but in the wishful sentiment of loyalty and a sincere[Pg 152] intention of a life that shall confess Him by the spirit of its deeds I believe I am genuine.”

Just after the Boston World’s and National Conventions of 1891, Lilian Whiting—that keen analyzer of motive and character—wrote: “Frances Willard is a born leader; but with this genius for direction and leadership, she unites another quality utterly diverse from leadership—that of the most impressionable, the most plastic, the most sympathetic and responsive person that can possibly be imagined. Her temperament is as delicately susceptible as that of an Aeolian harp; one can hardly think in her presence without feeling that she intuitively perceives the thought. She has the clairvoyance of high spirituality.

“No woman of America has ever done so remarkable a work as that being done by Frances Willard. There is no question of the fact that she was called of the Lord to consecrate herself to this work. She is so simple, so modest, so eager to put every one else in the best possible light, so utterly forgetful of self, that it requires some attention to realize her vast comprehensiveness of effort and achievement. If ever a woman were in touch with the heavenly forces it is she. Frances Willard is the most remarkable figure of her age.”

Some one else in a private letter writes: “Her strength was because she could love as no one else has loved since the Son of Man walked the earth.”



[Pg 153]



Unwilling to be separated from me, Clara proposed in 1882 that she and her two children should spend the summer in New England. Her Uncle William had placed his furnished house at our disposal; so Mr. Merrick and I had the novel experience of housekeeping in the land of the Pilgrims. We had the social pleasure of entertaining most interesting people, among them Miss Lucretia Noble, the author of “A Reverend Idol.”

After this visit Clara wrote a critique of this much-talked-of book, published in the New Orleans Times-Democrat, in which these words occur: “Miss Noble reminds one forcibly of that charming woman—Genevieve Ward. The identity of the ‘Idol’ is supposed to be established in the character of the worshiped and worshipful Phillips Brooks.” Clara had at times been a newspaper contributor, and often said a timely word for “the Cause that needed assistance.” She had addressed an open letter, just before leaving the city, to Mr. Paul Tulane, the philanthropist whose monument is Tulane University, urging vainly that this great institution should be co-educational in its scope. It was said of her that while her intellect and style were [Pg 154]exquisitely womanly they possessed firm rationality and searching analytical qualities.

Rev. W. F. Warren, D. D., president of Boston University, came also with his most attractive family to Wilbraham. The friendship and love of his wife, Harriet Cornelia Merrick, proved a source of great comfort in that season of sorrow, and a true satisfaction as long as she lived. Her vigorous, wholesome, sympathetic nature was one on which everybody was willing to ease off their own burdens. Her intellectual abilities ranked high, for she had acquired the culture of seven years spent in Europe. She was widely known for twenty-four years, as the editor of the Heathen Woman’s Friend—the organ of the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. She was an artist in music and a master of the French, German and Italian languages. A friend in Germany said: “Her German is perfect. She is never taken for an American; for does she not possess all the virtues of a German housewife? Does she not dearly love to fill her chest with fine linen, and take the best care of her household? And then she cultivates her flowers, makes fine embroideries, and last is a good knitter. She cannot be an American lady!” Yet she was a model mother after the American ideal; besides being a trustee of the New England Conservatory of Music, and a leading officer of numerous other boards. She had a breezy fashion of conversation, a fascinating smile, a cheery word, a fun-sparkling eye and bright hair waving prettily from a broad brow. When I confided to her the fact of my daughter’s threatened life by a latent disease,[Pg 155] she gave such heartful sympathy that I have never ceased to be grateful, and shed many tears when she too was called away.

I needed a close friend this sad summer, for though my daughter was not in usual health when we left home, none knew of the presence of a fatal malady. After a physician from Springfield had told us that she might survive a year in a warmer climate, it was difficult to keep strong enough to show her a cheerful face; but the medical orders were that Clara should not be informed of her own danger if we expected to take her home alive. I telegraphed for Mr. Guthrie. When he arrived and saw her looking as usual, sitting by an open window, bright, and beautifully dressed, he sent an immediate message to New Orleans allaying anxiety. But it was soon evident that she had entered upon the beginning of the end. She drove out every day and did not suffer: and we found her serenely conscious of her own condition. She said: “It is all right, if I die. I have been as happy as opportunities, and kindness, and attentions, and love can make a human being. It is beautiful to die here in Wilbraham where every one is so kind.” Every day she was bright and cheerful, and looked her own sweet self. One day her father assisted her into the carriage, and I knew it was for her a last drive. Though almost prostrated with grief, I was able to welcome her cheerfully when she returned. The next morning she got up as usual, and calling for her children, took a tender leave of all of us. “Don’t grieve, mother dear, don’t!” she said; “I am safe in God’s keeping.”

[Pg 156]“Oh, my child, what can I do without you!” I cried. “Do as other bereaved mothers have done and bear it bravely! and you will have both my little children to rear; they are yours.” When at the last she fixed her beautiful eyes on me and said: “My mother!” her earthly word was silenced, her life-work done.

I find that I wrote thus to a dear friend at that time: “Here I am—sitting in the chamber of my dead. The Marthas and the Marys are here doing according to their natures. Mary sits in the quiet with me, Martha writes of our loss to the absent, or prepares dinner. God help us! the business of life must go on even in the presence of death. My Clara lies on the lounge, wrapped in white cashmere, so still—so cold;—and this is the last day she can so lie before she is buried from my sight. The wind blows cool, as often in a New England August, but it drives pangs into my sore heart, and the day seems different from any other day of my life. Why does God leave us at such times set apart to suffer, as on some eminence? The people pity us. Her father says the time is short and we shall soon go to her. Yes—and then the air and the sunshine will take on a new nature for some one else—for our sakes. But it is different to lay old frames in the dust from putting under the daisies’ bed the young in their glorious prime. God knows best. It may be that she is taken from evil to come. She lived happily, and has laid down all of earth bravely to go into the other life.

“The students stop in passing, and seeing our mourning door ask, ‘Who is dead?’ My dead is nothing to them. They never saw Clara—nor me. It is only an[Pg 157] idle question. We are only two atoms among earth’s millions. O Lord, forget not these particles in Thy universe,—for we are being tossed to and fro,—and bring us to a resting place somewhere in Thy eternal kingdom!

“I know the world must still go on, though it is stationary for me, and I am honestly trying to have patience with its cheerful progress; but even the playfulness of my two motherless little ones jars upon me. It is useless for me to try to realize human sympathy from the lonely height where I sit and weep over the untimely death of my two beautiful daughters. They were God-given, and my very own by ties of blood, but more by that happy responsiveness of soul which constitutes ‘born friends.’ After being as the woman whose children rise up and call her blessed, I am now like Rachel of old, refusing to be comforted because they are not. I lie down in humble submission because I cannot help myself. I say over and over, ‘Thy will be done!’—but all the same I would have them back if I could. None of us try to raise a controversy with the inevitable. We are grateful for kind words and sympathy. They cannot change anything, but they give just a drop of comfort to a desolate, disrupted life on the human side of that gateway, through which the majority have gone down into the silence where ‘the dead praise not the Lord.’”

Many testimonies to the character and worth of our child were written and published. They shall speak for her and for the greatness of our loss. The Times-Democrat said: “Wherever she moved she was by the[Pg 158] necessities of her sweet nature a ‘bright, particular star’ among earth’s shining ones. Her conversation was a delight to all within sound of her voice. Her wit was gentle, pure, generous and sincere. She ruled all hearts, and loved to rule, for she ruled by love.”

Catharine Cole wrote: “Many men and women famous in the great world of art and literature will pay the sweet tribute of tears to the memory of this lovely woman; and here in our own home, where she was so beloved and admired, her gentle, cheery presence will be missed and mourned for many sad days. She shone like a jewel set amid dross.”

From Mrs. Mollie Moore Davis—widely known for her exquisitely delicate love poems and quaint tales of real life—came this tender word: “I truly appreciated her great gifts and greater loveliness. She is a star gone from my sky.”

Mrs. Mary Ashley Townsend sent me these words: “Her constant and determined intellectual development, her devotion to progress, her literary tastes, her social charms, her reliability as a friend, her loveliness as a wife and mother, formed a combination of qualities that made her the realization of the poet’s dream,

“‘Fair as a star when only one
Is shining in the sky.’”

Mrs. Townsend is herself a rarely gifted poet, long and deeply homed in the heart of New Orleans. With the exception of Longfellow and Cable, no writer has so vividly mirrored the very atmosphere of lower Louisiana. In “Down the Bayou” its “heroed past,” its[Pg 159] shrined memories find an eloquent voice; there in everlasting tints are painted its dank luxuriance and verdant solitudes; its red-tiled roofs and stucco walls, the “mud-built towers of castled cray-fish,” its sluggish, sinuous bayoux and secrets of lily-laden lagoons, its odors of orange bloom and mossy swamps mingled with flute-toned song and flitting color amid the solemn, dark-hued live-oaks. Mary Ashley Townsend had three lovely daughters. One has passed over the river, but she still has Adele, who resembles her gifted mother, and Daisy, to comfort her life.

James R. Randall, the gifted author of “My Maryland,” said in his own newspaper: “She was too radiantly dowered for this world she glorified. She was all that poets have sung and men have wished daughter and wife to be. Well may the bereaved father and husband wonder with poor Lear ‘why so many mean things live while she has ceased to be.’” Other expressions were as follows: “It is something worth living for, to have been the mother of such a being.” “Outside of your mother-love the loss of the sweet friendship and congeniality of your lives will create an awful void. But that beautiful soul is yours still—growing and developing in Paradise.” “Amid all her charms what impressed me most was her admiration for her mother. She addressed you often and fondly as ‘dear,’ as if you were the child and she the mother.” “Centuries of experience have not developed a philosophy deeper or more comforting for the human race than that of David: ‘He shall not return to me but I shall go to him.’ I thank God for the great gift of death!”

[Pg 160]A minister of God wrote me, from Worcester, Mass., a word that may be as great a light to some sitting in darkness as it was to me: “I must confess that, for my own part, I take such sorrows with less heaviness of heart than once, for the reason that every such loss seems to strengthen, rather than weaken, my faith in immortality. In good and beautiful lives I see so vividly a revelation of God—the Infinite Holiness and Beauty shining through the human soul and the raiment of clay—that I cannot believe it possible for death to extinguish their real life ‘hidden with Christ in God.’ I cannot believe that they can be ‘holden of the grave.’ I feel assured that theirs is a conscious life of progress and joy, and cannot mourn for them as dead, but only as far away. More and more am I convinced that this vivid feeling of the Divine Presence in beautiful human lives is peculiarly the Christian’s ground of hope in immortality. It was what the apostle meant by ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory,’ and it gives us gradually the clear vision of an immortal world. Only thus, as we gain that ‘knowledge of God’ which is ‘eternal life’ here and now, can we rise above the mist and smoke of this temporal world and lift our eyes ‘unto the hills whence cometh our help.’ Only thus as we live in the eternal world, here and now, can we feel secure that nothing fair and good in human life can perish.”

Mrs. Hannah Whitehall Smith wrote me thus from Philadelphia the sad December of this year:

My dear Friend:

“Miss Willard wants to open the lines between your [Pg 161]soul and mine. She feels sure we can do each other good, and asks me to tell you about my Ray who went home three years ago, because you, too, have lost a daughter and will understand. My Ray died after five days’ sickness. As soon as she was taken ill, I began, as my custom is, to say, ‘Thy will be done.’ I said it over and over constantly, and permitted no other thought to enter my mind. I hid myself and my child in the fortress of God’s blessed will,—and there I met my sorrow and loss. When she went out of my earthly life the peace of God which passes all understanding came down upon me from above, and enwrapped me in an impregnable hiding-place, where I have been hidden ever since. My windows look out only on the unseen and divine side of things; and I see my child in the presence of God, at rest forever, free from all earth’s trials. Whatever may be your experience I know that grief is bitter anguish under any other conditions than these, and the mystery of it is crushing.

“Our blessed Frances gave me your letter to read, and I could echo every word you said about her. She is queen among women and is doing a glorious work, not the least of which is the emancipation of women—coming out on every side. They have far more than they know for which to thank Frances Willard.”

To that letter I replied: “If the Heavenly Father takes note of the sparrow’s fall, it may be that He put the thought in Miss Willard’s mind to ask you to help me; but, dear lady, you are many a day’s journey ahead of me in religious experience when, in the presence of[Pg 162] the death of your beloved, you can say, ‘Thy will be done.’ I wish I could, like you, will whatever God wills.

“I thank you for the account of your Ray, and I thank God that He created such a Christian mother. Simeon said to Mary: ‘Yea, a sword shall pierce through thine own soul also.’ Every one who has lost a child has been pierced through and through. In this crisis of my life I am amazed and stupefied by my own capacity for suffering, and actually look upon myself with an awed pity, as I would upon a stranger. How can I yield everything? I had already buried one lovely daughter in the bloom of life; and I had only one left. I submit because I must. My heart cries out for my child; God forgive me, but I would call her back to me if I could.”

When the time drew near for the annual convention of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, my husband and sons urged that I should go to Detroit, hoping the change of scene and new responsibilities might arouse me from depression. Miss Willard had already written: “My heart turns toward thee in thy desolation. Remember thou hast doting sisters. I believe thy beautiful Clara knows how we rally to thy side, and is glad.”

While I was in Detroit, Hannah Whitehall Smith called upon me several times, and talked about my condition of mind, and so inspired me with gratitude that I endeavored to obey every suggestion she made, regardless of the pride and self-sufficiency which is so common with unsatisfied souls. She seemed to have direct access to the Heavenly Father, and laid my case before[Pg 163] Him with such simplicity and faith that my heart was deeply touched, and I gained a new knowledge of spiritual relations. When I learned in these latter days, that she had been called to sorrow over her husband “gone before,” I wrote to her in loving memory of her former goodness, and received a reply, from Eastnor Castle, where she and Lady Henry Somerset had been engaged in preparing a memorial of Miss Willard, which was issued to the people of Great Britain.

The letter reads: “Your loving sympathy in my last great loss has been most welcome. My dear husband had been a great sufferer for eighteen months, and longed so eagerly to go that no one who loved him could be anything but thankful when his release came. I have been enabled to rejoice in his joy of having entered into the presence of the King. It cannot be long for me at the longest before I shall join him, and until then I am hidden in the Divine fortress of God’s love and care. I love to think that you too are hidden there, dear friend and sister, and that together we may meet in the Divine Presence where there is fulness of joy even in the midst of earthly sorrow.

“Lady Henry joins me in love to you. She is, as we are, very sorry over the loss of our beloved Frances Willard; but God still lives and reigns, and in Him we can rest without anxiety. I have found Him a very present help in many a time of trouble, and I rejoice to know I was permitted to help you realize this in your hour of sore need.”



[Pg 164]



The incidents which once enlivened the lives of every family that was served by the negro slave are fading from the minds of even many who were centers of those episodes. But they are of legendary interest to the younger generations. There are some things to be regretted in the negro being poured into the mold of the white man’s education. The only true national music in the United States is that known as “the negro melody.” Will not so-called musical “cultivation” tend to destroy the charmingly distinctive character of the negro’s music? Art cannot supply or enhance the quality of his genius. It will be a definite loss if the music of the future shall lack the individualism of his songs, for with them will go the wonderful power of improvisation—the relic of his unfettered imagination, the voices of his native jungles struggling to translate themselves into speech. His happy insouciance is already fleeing before the pressure of his growing responsibilities. Very much that constitutes the picturesque and lovable in negro character will disappear with the negro point of view,—for if he survives in this civilization his point of view must merge into the[Pg 165] Anglo-Saxon’s. Only those who were “to the manor born” can deftly interpret the idiosyncrasies of the plantation negro; so, while a few of us who owned them are yet alive, it may be a service to the future, as well as our duty and pleasure, to link their race peculiarities to the yet unborn, by revealing and embalming them through the garrulous pen. Becky Coleman’s gifts as a raconteuse deserve a record. It delights me to remember her as I sat one day at the door of the porch facing the wide river and the public road. Near by, through a path in the grounds, a procession of colored people passed and repassed morning and evening, with buckets on their well-cushioned heads, to the cisterns of water in the rear of the house. Becky came along and greeted me with polite cordiality. I invited her to stop and rest awhile, and filled her tin cup with iced lemonade from a pitcher standing near.

The woman seated herself on the steps, set down her pail beside her and sipped the cool beverage.

“Thanky, ma’am,” said she. “I feels dat clean down in my foots. It’s mighty hot fer dis time er year. Ole Aunt Mary is spendin’ to-day at my house, en she hope me some, hoin’ in my gyardin’, en now um gwine to bile er pot o’ greens and stchew some greasy butter beans (fer de ole ’oman don’t never have nothin’ but meat en brade at her house), en den she mus’ finish gittin’ de grass en weeds outen my cabiges, for um bound to have a fall gyardin’, en ef yo wants turnips, en lettice, en redishes, yo knows whar to fin’ em.”

Becky lifted the lower flounce of my wrapper and inspected the embroidery, looking at me sharply from[Pg 166] head to foot. “Dat’s a mighty purty dress yo got on, Miss Carrie,” said she, “yo mus’ lem me have it when yo’re done wid it. Won’t yo promise me?”

“Now, Becky,” I replied, “don’t ask me to make a promise I might forget, and you would be sure to remember; but you go on and tell me about your protracted meeting at the Royal Oak Church yesterday.”

Becky squared her portly person into a comfortable position, her hand on her hip, and with complacency and satisfaction beaming from her ebony colored face she began:

“Ya’as em I wuz dar; I was bleeged to be dar, fer um one uv de stchowerd sisters. You knows we dresses in white en black. I had on dat black silk dress yo sont me las’ Chrimus. Dat is, I had on de tail uv it, wid er white sack instead of er bass, en I jes’ let yo know nun of dese niggers roun’ here can beat me er dressin’, when I gits on de close yo gie me. I had er starchy big white handkercher tied turbin fashin on my head, en Miss Lula’s big breas’-pin right yeah” (putting her hand to her throat), “en I tell yo, mun, I jes’ outlooked ennything in dat house. Yander comes Aunt Loo, an’ I bet she’ll tell yo de same. ’Twas er feas’ day—sackament day—en all de stchowerd sisters was er settin’ roun’ on de front benches, like dey does dem times, en dar wus Sis’ Lizer Wright, who wus one of us, all dressed up in pure white, en settin’ side uv her was Peter Green, en he wus fixed up too, mitely, even down to new shoes.

“Dey hilt pra’ar, en den Bro’ Primus Johnson ris en showed er piece up paper ’en told us all ’twas er license fer to jine Peter Green and Lizer Wright in de[Pg 167] holy bonds o’ mattermony; ‘But,’ sez he, ‘fo’ I go any furder I want de bretherin to come for’ard en speak dey mines on de subjick.’

“Well, at dat, I seed er good many nods ’en winks er passin’ ’bout, but I never knowd ’zacly whut wus gwine on ’till one of de elders ris ’en said he dijected to havin’ any ceremony said over dem folks, fer Sis’ Lizer’s fust husband, ole Unk’ Jake, wus yit er livin’, ’ceppen he died sence I lef’ home dis mawin’,’ sez he.

“His ’pinion wus dat ef de deacorns wan’t ’lowed but one wife ’cordin’ to Scriptur, de stchowerd sisters mustn’t have mor’n one man at de same time.

“Dat fotch Bro. Primus ter his feet, en he tun roun’ to de sisters, he did, en ’lowed dat dey too mought git up en ’brace de multitude, en gie dur unnerstandin’ in dis case. ’Pon dat, Sis’ Anderson ris, en sez she, ‘Dis ’oman orten be casted outen de church, en I ain’t afeard to say so pine blank.’ I tell yer she was in fer raisen uv a chune, en singin’ her right out den en dar, wid de Elder leadin’ of her ter de do’, for dat’s de way dey tu’ns em outen de church over here. ‘Fer,’ sez she, ‘she’s bent on committen’ ’dultery—ef she ain’t done it befo’—en its gwine clean agin whuts in dat ar volum on dat ar table,’ en she p’inted her forefinger to de Bible er layin’ dar, en ses she, ‘We cyant ’ford to let sich doin’s as dese to be gwine on in dis heah ’sciety.’

“Dey all sided ’long Sis’ Andersen mostly, ceppen me. I wus sorry fer de ’oman a settin’ dar wid her arms hugged up on her breas’ like a pore crimi’al. I wuz mighty sorry fer her. So when Bro’ Primus[Pg 168] ’quired ef ennybody felt able ter counterfeit Sis’ Andersen’s evidence, en looked all roun’, en nobody sed nuthin, when he axed ’em agin why, on dat second ’peal, I jes’ riz up en tole ’em I knowed dat ’oman fo’ de wah. To be shore she had tuck up wid old Unk’ Jake long ’fo’ dat. He wus er ingeneer in a big saw-mill on de Tucker place, en he had er son by his fust wife, killed in de wah. He wus mighty ole when I fust seed him—he ollers wus a heap too ole fer Sis’ Lizer—but fer de las’ six or seben year de ole man’s done failed so he ain’t no service to nobody—mor’n er chile, siz I. Bein’ as he is, sez I, widout any owner fer to feed en clove en fine him it comes powerful hard on Sis’ Lizer to do all, fer I tell yer, he’s des like er chile, only wus, fer a chile kin he’p himself some, but Unk’ Jake cayn’t do er Gawd’s bit fer hisself, nor nobody else.”

“Is he too feeble to walk about?” I asked.

“Well, ma’am, in ’bout er hour, he mought git as fer frum here as yo gyardin gate yander—hoppin’ long slow on his stick.”

Becky rose and very perfectly imitated the bowed figure and halting gait of the poor old negro. Throwing down the stick she had used, she resumed her seat and her subject, saying; “Sis’ Lizer done er good part by dat ole man. She has him to feed wid er spoon, fer his han’ is dat shakey dat he spills everyt’ing ’fo he gets it ter his mouf. When she goes ter de fiel’ she puts er baskit er co’n by him so he kin muse hisself feedin’ de chicken en ducks.

“Ole folks, yo know, eats mighty often,” said Becky, “en den he mus’ be fed thru de night. Ef she don’t[Pg 169] git up en gin him dat cake or some mush en milk, why she cayn’t sleep fer his cryin’—jes’ like er chile.”

“You were telling me, Becky, what occurred at church; suppose you go on with that story,” said I.

“Gawd bless yer soul, honey, dat wan’t no story. I wish I may die dis minit ef I didn’t tell yo de Gawd’s trufe. Oh, yas; I had ris en wus er speakin’ up fer de ’oman, how long I knowed her en so on, en den I said——” she spoke louder, rising and gesticulating: “Brethren, you see dat grass out yander en dat yaller spotted dog er wallerin’ roun’ on it? Well den, yo sees it, en yo sees dat steer er standin’ er little ways off; now dat ox would be eatin’ dat grass ef he warn’t driv away by de dog. Ole Unk’ Jake ain’t no dog. He ain’t dat mean en low down. He done gie Sis’ Lizer er paper signifyin’ his cornsent fer her to take ’nother pardner.

“Een I jes’ went on—‘Bretherin,’ says I, ‘nobody nee’nter talk ’bout no ’dultery neither, fer yo all knows dere want no lawful marryin’ nohow in slave times en Reb times. De scan’lous can’t be no wus en ’tis. Yo mus’ jes’ sider dat Sis’ Lizer wants ter marry, now fer de fust time, en live like er Christon in her ole days. Nobody musn’t hender her in de doin’ of er right t’ing, but let us pray fer de incomin’ uv de Sperit.’

“We mus’ feel fer one another, sez I, ’en none de res’ kin do no better’n Sis’ Lizer. De Word says ef yer right arm defend yo, cut it off, en ef yer right eye ain’t right, pull it out. ‘Bretherin,’ says I, ‘dey ain’t nothin’ ’tall gin dese folks bein’ jined together in dat ar book dar, nor nowhares else.’

“Brudder Primus ’lowed, he did, dat Sis Coleman[Pg 170] had thowed mo’ light on do case dan ennybody else, en perceeded ter ax Peter Green ef he wus willin’ en able to help Sis’ Lizer take keer of ole Unk Jake, en he signified he wus; en den everybody wus satisfied en de ceremony wus said over ’em right den en dar, fo’ de preacher tuk his tex’ en preached his sarmont.

“But dis won’t do me,” said Becky. “I mus’ go long en put on my dinner ’fo’ de ole man come ’long en holler fer his vittles. Good-by, Miss Carrie,” said she, rising, “don’t yo forgit yo promised me dat dress yo got on. I wants to put it away ’ginst I die, to be berry’d in. Dat ’min’s me dat Aunt Patsey’s sholey bad off. She cayn’t las’ much longer.”

“You’ve had that woman dying for a week, Becky.”

“No, ma’am, I ain’t had her dyin’! It’s de Lord! If ’twas me diff’unt people would die fum dem dat does die—I tell yer!”



[Pg 171]



As has been intimated, I became president of the New Orleans W. C. T. U. not from deep conviction of duty on the temperance question, but because I could not resist the inspirations of Frances Willard’s convictions. Once in the work I gave my heart and my conscience to it with such measure of success that in January, 1883, a State convention was called to meet in New Orleans in the hall of the Y. M. C. A. Miss Willard was again present, and was my guest. Rev. W. C. Carter, D. D., pastor of Felicity Street M. E. Church South, was the knightly brother who stood beside us in this hour when we were without reputation, nobly doing his sworn duty as a soldier of the Cross, to speak the truth and defend the weak. Miss Willard spoke twice in his church. At a table where a number of dignitaries of the church were dining, referring to this event, a friend remarked that Dr. Carter had said the only time his church was full was on this occasion of Miss Willard’s address. “No,” the doctor replied, “I did not say that. I said the first time it was full. It was full again—but she filled it!”

There was a peculiar fitness in the time of Miss [Pg 172]Willard’s early visits to the South. Women who had been fully occupied with the requirements of society and the responsibilities of a dependency of slaves, were now tossed to and fro amidst the exigencies and bewilderments of strange and for the most part painful circumstances, and were eager that new adjustments should relieve the strained situation, and that they might find out what to do. Frances Willard gave to many of them a holy purpose, directing it into broader fields of spiritual and philanthropic culture than they had ever known. For the local and denominational she substituted the vision of humanity. It seemed to me that when Miss Willard and Miss Gordon bravely started out to find a new country they discovered Louisiana, and like Columbus, they set up a religious standard and prayed over it—and organized the W. C. T. U. I was one result of that voyage of discovery. It immersed me in much trouble, care and business—sometimes it seemed as if I had more than my head and hands could hold—unused was I to plans and work and burdens. I prayed to be delivered from too much care unless it might set forward the cause. I was willing “to spend and be spent,” but sometimes I felt as if I had mistaken my calling. I only knew that I was on the right road, and tried to look to God to lead me. Doubts might come to-morrow, but to-day I trusted. In ten years I saw the work established in most of the chief towns of the State, and many men and women afield who had learned the doctrine of total abstinence for the individual and the gospel of prohibition for the commonwealth.

During these years I gathered numerous delightful[Pg 173] associations in my State work and in my annual attendance upon the conventions of the National W. C. T. U. Among the National workers who aided me greatly in my early work was Mrs. Judith Ellen Foster who, with her husband, was for a week my guest, and spoke in crowded churches. Although I did not wholly sympathize with her when later she withdrew from the National W. C. T. U., our friendly personal relations were never broken. Her brilliant abilities as a temperance worker and as a pioneer woman-member of the bar commanded my respect, and I have not ceased to be grateful for the sustaining power of her inspirations and acts. For the first time in my life, at one of her meetings in New Orleans, I sat in a pulpit—where Bishops Newman and Simpson had officiated—and very peculiar were my feelings in such a place.

Besides Mrs. Foster, Mrs. Mary T. Lathrop, Mrs. Clara C. Hoffman and Mrs. Hannah Whitehall Smith from National ranks did much to create sentiment for our cause in Louisiana. No speaker in America has excelled Mrs. Lathrop in the vigor and the statesmanlike majesty of her arguments for the dethronement of the liquor traffic. A distinguished judge, who was not in favor of our propaganda, said there were few men in Congress who had equalled her in logic and eloquence. We mourn yet that in her death the world has lost so much that time can never replace.

One of the greatest victories won for our cause was the passage in 1888 of a Scientific Temperance Instruction bill, by the State Legislature, for the education of the youth in the public schools, on the nature of alcohol[Pg 174] and its effect upon the human system. Mrs. Mary Hunt of Massachusetts, the originator of this movement for the safeguard of health against the seductions and destructions of strong drink and narcotics, spent a month at our legislature as the guest of Mrs. Mary Reade Goodale. Daily I went with these two indefatigable workers, watched and manœuvered the progress of this bill, until one of the best statutes passed on this subject by any State was secured. Such a work for the world’s glory is enough for any mortal, but we trust it has also placed Mrs. Hunt among the immortals of earthly fame.

I visited the Capital at this time and was active in the lobby, interviewing members. I sent my card to a Senator Gage, and was more than surprised when in response a tall, dignified black man presented himself. It was difficult for a moment to determine whether to make him stand during the interview, as is usual with his color, but I said: “Senator Gage: The people have put you in this respectable and responsible position, and as other senators have occupied this chair will you please be seated?” He sat down, and he afterward voted for our bill.

After this social intercourse with Mrs. Hunt and Mrs. Goodale great impetus was given to the work in Louisiana by the establishment of a W. C. T. U. booth at the World’s Exposition in New Orleans in the year 1885. It was artistically decorated and made as attractive as ingenuity could devise. Here the world’s great lights in the temperance cause were to be heard daily—in pulpits and other public places in the city. In[Pg 175] addition to Miss Willard, Mrs. Lathrop, Mrs. Matilda B. Carse, Mrs. Caroline Buel, Mary Allen West, Mrs. Josephine Nichols, Mrs. Mary A. Leavitt, Mrs. Sallie F. Chapin of the National Guard, there were present from State work, Mrs. Lide Merriwether of Tennessee, Mrs. I. C. de Veiling of Massachusetts, Mrs. J. B. Hobbs and Mrs. Lucian Hagans of Illinois, Mrs. M. M. Snell of Mississippi, and many others. Our Louisiana Prohibition militia were in force all the time, and we had the pleasure and assistance of such brotherly giants of the temperance reform as Geo. W. Bain, I. N. Stearn, president of National Temperance Society, Jno. P. St. Johns, Hon. R. H. McDonald of California, Rev. C. H. Mead, A. A. Hopkins, and hosts of other loyal brethren who burnished our faith and fired our zeal.

Miss Willard in the Union Signal of this date said: “Mrs. Merrick speaks of the W. C. T. U. Booth as a ‘tabernacle.’ I consult Webster and find that a tabernacle is ‘a place in which some holy or precious thing is deposited.’ Aye, the definition fits. Our hearts are there, our holy cause, our blessed bonds. Again, it is a ‘reliquary,’ says the redoubtable Noah, ‘a place for the preservation of relics.’ Yea, verily. The women of Israel never turned over their relics more keenly than have W. C. T. U. women rifled their jewelry boxes for the ‘Souvenir Fund,’ which has gone into the Tabernacle. It is ‘a niche’ too ‘for the image of a saint.’ Accurate to a nicety. Heaven keeps a niche to hold our treasures, and so does the World’s Exposition. Our saints are there in person and in spirit—the right hand of our power.”

[Pg 176]Mrs. Julia Ward Howe had been called by the Exposition management to preside over the Woman’s Department. There was much criticism of the authorities that this honor had not been given to a Southern woman; notwithstanding that this world-renowned Bostonian was not a stranger to our people—they fully appreciated the power of her “Battle Hymn of the Republic”—it seemed unnecessary to seek so far for a head of the Exhibit. If Southern women could create it, some one of them was surely able to direct it. Mrs. Howe came and performed this duty with marked ability, and displayed a force of character which commanded respect though it did not always win for her acquiescence in her decisions or affectionate regard from all her colleagues. I myself had much expense to incur, and received nothing, and individually I had naught special to excite my gratitude, though from the first I was willing to welcome this distinguished lady, and extend to her my co-operation and hospitality. My subsequent relations to her though transient have been pleasant, and doubtless her memory of her Exposition coadjutors matches our recollection of her own regal self. Miss Isabel Greely was her secretary—a very useful and estimable woman.

Some interesting exercises took place during one afternoon of the Exposition. Mrs. Julia Ward Howe addressed the colored people in a gallery devoted to their exhibit. There was a satisfactory audience, chiefly of the better classes of the race. Mrs. Howe had asked me to accompany her, and when I assented some one said: “Well, you are probably the only Southern woman[Pg 177] here who would risk public censure by speaking to a negro assembly.” Mrs. Howe told them how their Northern friends had labored to put the colored people on a higher plane of civilization, and how Garrison had been dragged about the streets of Boston for their sake, and urged that they show themselves worthy of the great anti-slavery leaders who had fought their battles. Her address was extremely well received. I was then invited to speak. I told them: “The first kindly face I ever looked into was one of this race who called forth the sympathy of the world in their days of bondage. Among the people you once called masters you have still as warm, appreciative friends as any in the world. Some of us were nurtured at your breasts, and most of us when weaned took the first willing spoonful of food from your gentle, persuasive hands; and when our natural protectors cast us off for a fault, for reproof, for punishment, you always took us up and comforted us. Can we ever forget it?

“Have you not borne the burdens of our lives through many a long year? When troubles came did you not take always a full share? Well do I remember, as a little child, when I saw my beloved mother die at the old plantation home. The faithful hands from the fields assembled around the door, and at her request Uncle Caleb Harris knelt by her bedside and prayed for her recovery—if it was God’s will. How the men and women and children wept! And after she was laid in the earth my infant brother, six months old, was given entirely to the care of Aunt Rachel, who loved him as her own life even into his young manhood, and[Pg 178] to the day of her death. And who can measure your faithfulness during the late war when all our men had gone to the front to fight for their country? Your protection of the women and children of the South in those years of privation and desolation; your cultivation of our fields that fed us and our army; your care of our soldier boys on the field of battle, in camp and hospital, and the tender loyalty with which you—often alone—brought home their dead bodies so that they might be laid to sleep with their fathers, has bound to you the hearts of those who once owned you, in undying remembrance and love.

“I do not ask you to withhold any regard you may have for those who labored to make you free. Be as grateful as you can to the descendants of the people who first brought you from Africa—and then sold you ‘down South’ when your labor was no longer profitable to themselves. But remember, now you are free, whenever you count up your friends never to count out the women of the South. They too rejoice in your emancipation and have no grudges about it; and would help you to march with the world in education and true progress. As we have together mourned our dead on earth let us rejoice together in all the great resurrections now and hereafter.” At the close, many colored people with tearful eyes extended a friendly hand, and Mrs. Howe too did the same.

Hon. R. H. McDonald, the California philanthropist, had been my guest during Exposition days and had won our hearts by a face that reflected the nobility of his deeds. In 1890 he sent me $150 to be used for prizes[Pg 179] offered in the public schools of New Orleans for the best essays written on temperance. The school board and Mr. Easton, the able superintendent, accepted the offer, and the presentation of the prizes was made a great public occasion in an assemblage at Grunewald Hall.

There was a small contingent of Southern women whose platform services were invaluable to me, and whose loving sympathy helped me over many otherwise rough places. The first of these was Mrs. Sallie F. Chapin of South Carolina. Both in appearance and speech she was intense, tragic, and pathetic.—Her fiery eloquence captured the imagination and dragooned convictions in battalions. She did splendid pioneer platform services as superintendent of Southern Work, which place she filled until it was abolished by the National Convention of 1889, at the request of the Southern States, because the existence of that office misrepresented them in their organic relations to the National W. C. T. U. and had a trend toward violation of a platform principle against sectionalism. Mrs. Chapin lived and died an “unreconstructed Rebel.” The bogey of secession of the Southern States from the National seemed to haunt her brain; but I have never been able to discover any other woman who believed that such a phantom existed; it must have been but a queer instance of reflex action from her over-stimulated Southern sentiment. Mrs. Chapin had extraordinary ability and was a marvel of endurance when her temperament is taken into the reckoning. Her heroic service deserves a lasting place in our annals.

[Pg 180]Another Southern woman of large brain and larger heart who helped me in my days of inexperience was Mrs. Mary McGee Snell (now Hall) of Mississippi. Like the war-horse of Scripture she scented battle afar off and gloried in combat. She was never so happy as in the heat of struggle. Her impetuous nature took her into all sorts of unusual situations, and she did not seem to be out of place—as did many other delegates—when, during a National W. C. T. U. convention, she was seen in the streets of Chicago parading at the head of a Salvation Army procession. She is essentially “a soldier of the Cross,” and has carried her gifts of eloquence and the most vibrant, persuasive of voices into the Evangelistic department of our National organization. Her love of rescuing souls has kept her exclusively in evangelistic work; in her power as a gospel worker she is a Sam Jones and D. L. Moody boiled down.

The most original of our National staff-workers who came to my rescue was another full-blooded Southerner—Miss Frances E. Griffin of Alabama. She is gifted with an inimitable humor. An audience room is quickly filled when it is known that she is to be the speaker of an occasion. Though a woman of presence and dignity and a manner that befits the best, her appearance as soon as she speaks a word is a promise of fun, and her audience has begun to laugh before the time. Wit of tongue is rare with women, but Miss Griffin’s equals in quality or rank the best of our American humorists. At the same time that she enlivens the seriousness of the public work which women[Pg 181] have in hand, she is an intelligent reformer and also a true woman of the home—having for many years been the responsible bread-winner of her family, and has reared orphan children.

Miss Belle Kearney was too young during my term of office to be classed with the workers already mentioned, for she had just begun to consecrate her life to the service of humanity. At my request she brought her fresh enthusiasm and great gifts to organize the Young Woman’s Temperance Union of Louisiana. Repeated and most effective work in this State has made Louisianians feel that they have an endearing right in this Dixie-born-and-reared young woman; nor have they less pride than her native Mississippi in her present national fame as a first-class platform speaker and progressive reformer.

Hindrances and heartaches, however, were sandwiched between our helps and happiness liberally enough to cause us to realize that she—as well as he—who wins must fight. We were not strong swimmers accustomed to breast the waves of an uneducated public disapproval; but we knew we must encounter it and nerve ourselves for the shock, putting ourselves at war against the liquor traffic and its political allies. Everywhere we found the W. C. T. U. the underpinning (not one would have dared to think of herself as a “pillar”) of the church. Very many of them had in tow the whole church structure—missionary societies, pastor’s salary, the choir, the parsonage, and the debt on the church. Most of them were mothers too; some, God help them! sad-eyed and broken-hearted because[Pg 182] of the ravage of their own firesides which the open saloon had caused. We read our Bibles and prayed, and the word of the Lord came to us that the mother-heart in Christ’s people must protest against further slaying of the innocents at the open doorways of the dram shops!

We went to our brethren in the church (to whom else should we go?) with the Lord’s message. Some of them—not the dignitaries usually, but the humble-minded, prayerful men, God bless them! who went about their work unheralded—believed our report: but it was too hard a saying for the many that God ever spake except by the word of mouth of a man. They forgot Anna and Deborah, and practically sided with the “higher criticism” respecting the errancy of the Scripture in its statement about woman’s relation to the church. And so, after a while, I said at one of our conventions that I could count upon one hand all the ministers in New Orleans who had come forward to pray over one of our meetings.

We had to defend ourselves on the charge of being Sabbath-breakers, because after doing the Lord’s work six days in the week, a W. C. T. U. woman was said to have slept—“rested,” according to the commandment—on Sunday. On this charge, and because a speaker in returning to my house after a Sunday address took a ride in the last half hour of the day in a street-car, a resolution of endorsement of the W. C. T. U. failed to pass in a Louisiana Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, and we were cruelly hurt by the tone of the discussion.

[Pg 183]General Conference lifted us out of despair by noble resolutions against licensing the liquor traffic, and thereafter clerical dignitaries broke our hearts by a masterly inactivity—or took a scourge of small cords and proceeded, as it were, to drive us out with the hue and cry of “women’s rights,” lest, should a woman vote, her natural function should cease, and the sound of the lullaby and sewing machine be no longer heard in the land. It was comical sometimes to see how the bishops and politicians moved on the same line and for the same reason. But like some of our good bishops of slaveholding times, these certainly will not shine with lustre in the sky of history. Humbler ministerial brethren endured reproach with us and fought our battles; then we had sometimes the sorrow of seeing them removed from places of influence to obscure points in the service of the church. At last we and they tacitly understood that a preacher who wrought valiantly for prohibition jeoparded his “prospects.” So it came that some who had led us “went back” in the holy cause, and “standing afar off,” justified themselves, saying, “I’m as good a prohibitionist as you are, but I’m more practical.” Desperation seizes the soul of women in reform work when a preacher or politician uses the word “practical”; we know we shall get his “sympathy” but never his influence or his vote. And the diplomatic brother who has to explain that he is a temperance man, may hold clear qualifications for a citizenship in heaven, but is of no account whatever as a citizen of the militant kingdom Of God on earth, that must fight against “principalities[Pg 184] and powers” if it would win the world to the principles of Christ.

It should be clearly understood that the legitimate work of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union is to close the open saloon, and not, as many mistake, to interfere with personal liberty by forcing total abstinence upon the individual. The members of the organization in the interests of consistency must be total abstainers; and because science pronounces alcohol a poison and an active peril in the human body, a vigorous educational propaganda is kept up in order that future generations may be protected by knowledge against the dangers of alcoholic drinks. The main point at issue is that the State has no right to license an institution which is a corrupter of public morals and a menace to social life. The Supreme Court of the United States has so interpreted. It is the sole duty of the State to protect and develop citizens; to protect their lives, their property, their morals and their rights; to develop the highest type of citizen that education by law and schoolhouse can produce. The saloon hazards the well-being of every citizen that is born to a State; it annuls the work of the church and the college; it disintegrates, degrades and destroys family life—the unit of the State; it impoverishes the home, pauperizes the child and debases manhood; it fills almshouses, jails and insane asylums; it lays the burden of the support of these institutions on the State; the taxes which all the people have paid for their mutual protection and development are unrighteously diverted to the sustenance of the victims of the saloon; the State protects a small class of citizens[Pg 185] in doing injury to the interests of all other classes. For revenue, and for revenue only, it gives a right and a power to the saloon to make an unending army of criminals, paupers and lunatics out of the sons and daughters which every mother has gone down into the shadow of death to deliver into the keeping of her country.

The motherhood of the enlightened world is arousing against this treachery of the commonwealth to her sacred trust. The State has no right to sell her sons even unto righteousness; still less to deliver them into the bonds of iniquity for a price. It is incredible that the mother’s revolt did not begin long ago, for even the brute will fight for its young. But now they have begun to understand their duty and their power, and “so long as boys are ruined and mothers weep; so long as homes are wrecked and the sob of unsheltered children finds the ear of God; so long as the Gospel lets in the light for the lost, and Christ is King, there will be a contest on the temperance question until victory. So long as this Christian nation sanctions the destruction of its sons for revenue, and sets on a legalized throne ‘that sum of all villainies,’ the saloon; so long as ‘the wicked are justified for reward’ and cities are built with blood, there will be a prohibition issue, and one day the right will triumph.”



[Pg 186]



I once heard a woman say that she had lived half a lifetime before she realized that the commandments were written for her. In a vague sort of way she had appropriated, “Thou shalt not steal,” “Thou shalt not bear false witness;” but she did not intend to do these things—the commandments must be for those who did. Her dumb amazement may be imagined on hearing a venerable and saintly soul state that she was so grateful to God that in her long life she had had no temptation to be a Magdalen. It was unthinkable that she should have had.

But the stress of life grew to agony; disappointments and wrongs heaped upon my friend; and one day she stood bare-souled and alone before God, confronting the commandment: “Thou shalt not kill!” In her struggle back to the Divine she learned that all of the commandments were written for her. Ever since, her heart has been pierced with tenderest sympathy for every man or woman who has fallen before temptation, and the despair of the suicide seems her own.

Unvarying good health and steady nerves were my inheritance, and my husband’s fine, calm judgment helped to increase my nervous vigor. I am afraid I[Pg 187] had once a quiet disdain for nervous women, and was supercilious towards what I deemed a lack of moral fiber, believing that with it health conditions would not have become “all at loose ends.” But a time came when I too was going from sofa to easy chair, and dropping back into bed limp and trembling; when the banging of a door or the rustling of a paper “set me wild;” when I was being a means of grace to all my family through giving them an opportunity to “let patience have its perfect work”—and all with no justifying cause, except that the iron of sorrow had entered my soul, the color had been taken from my life, and I had not yet found my readjustments. Nevertheless I denied my condition, and so one day the doctor tried to explain it to me. “A person,” he began, “is said to be nervous when presenting a special susceptibility to pain, or exhibiting an undue mobility of the nervous system, as when one starts, or shakes on the occasion of abrupt or intense sensorial impressions, thus showing an exalted emotional susceptibility. The heart itself under the influence of nervous stimulation may in a moment change its customary order and rate of action, and in extreme cases cease to beat. The whole mental processes, as well as the functions of organic life, may be seriously involved. Now in your case, madam——”

“Stop, doctor. I take in the fact,” said I, “which is evident in your high-sounding phrases, that nervous prostration is a killing complaint and you are going to treat me for it.”

“Perhaps so,” said the doctor. “It often happens that an exaltation or diminution of activity in some one[Pg 188] portion of the nervous system causes perverted action in another part, as when any unusual strain has been thrown upon you.”

“For instance,” said I, “when a friend came last Sunday and allowed me to carry up-stairs her grip-sack with books in it?”

“Politeness should never require you to do such a thing,” said the doctor, “but the strain may not be any physical exertion or overwork; deficient sleep, any sudden shock of joy or fear, especially terror, might prove fatal.”

“I was much frightened last summer,” said I, “by a stroke of lightning which destroyed an immense oak tree in front of the door. It was a worse panic than that which seizes one on seeing one’s husband bringing three gentlemen to dinner, when there is only one good little porter-house steak in the house.”

“Allow me to say,” continued the doctor, “nervousness characterizes women more than men. It sometimes comes on as a sequence of severe illness, some grave anxiety, some physical or moral shock, like the unexpected discovery of perfidy or disloyalty on the part of a friend. Then, too, nervous prostration is brought on by unremitting or monotonous duties, which keep the same paths of action from day to day.”

“I was told,” said I, “of a lawyer who entering his office the other day read upon his slate the statement that he would be back in half an hour; in a fit of absence of mind he took a seat and waited for himself, and it was some time before he realized that he was in his own office, and that he was not one of his own clients.”

[Pg 189]“That,” replied the doctor, “was no worse than the case of the reverend gentleman who on going out one morning gathered up an ordinary business coat and carried it around the whole day, thinking it was his overcoat, and was more surprised than anybody else when informed of his mistake. These examples are evidences and symptoms of nervous disorder. I never knew a man to hurt himself by mere bodily labor; but excessive mental toil is certainly capable of damaging the nervous tissues. Any calamity, misfortune, pecuniary loss, or accident is liable to bring on nervous prostration. What are the symptoms? Loss of sleeping power, incapacity and aversion to work, lassitude, headache, an anxious and cross expression of countenance, heart disturbance, cramp—all these may be indications of local nervous exhaustion.”

“Doctor, how do you propose to exterminate this formidable enemy?”

“For the treatment of nervous diseases,” said he, “we have at our disposal invaluable remedies whose action is more or less special. There is strychnine, bromide of potassium, possessing the opposite properties of increasing and diminishing the reflex excitability of the nervous system, in addition to other beneficial modes of action. Then we have chloral and morphine, acting directly and indirectly as hypnotics, thus allowing the curative action of rest to come into play. For pain, we have opium, Indian hemp, subcutaneous injections of morphia, and the galvanic current. We have any number of drugs for influencing, relaxing, mitigating pain, reinforcing the nutrition of wasted muscles. Then[Pg 190] there are nervine tonics, preparations of zinc, arsenic, iron, quinine, phosphorus, cod-liver oil, to say nothing of cold or tepid douches, and the massage treatment.”

“Good gracious!” I exclaimed, “am I to swallow all these poisonous things?”

“There is no occasion for alarm, madam. I don’t propose to prescribe all these things at once. The first thing I shall order is very important—it is a simple but nutritious diet. Eat plenty of ripe fruit; drink pure, distilled water; take plenty of gentle but regular exercise, and sleep as much as possible. You must be surrounded by agreeable society, have plenty of fresh air and excellent food, and with temperance, avoiding all excitement and mental exertion, I hope you will soon be well.”

“But, doctor, suppose baby Laura falls down-stairs or the house takes fire?”

“You are to be kept ignorant of all such things. The medicine you need is perfect rest, for after all it is the most powerful therapeutic agent when you understand its nature and the indications for its use. You rest your body in sleep, you rest your mind by looking on beautiful things, hearing good music, and thinking of nothing. Sleep is a preventive of disease, and the want of it, if carried too far, causes death. Sleep is balm to the careworn mind and over-wrought brain. In these days of emulation and worry, the waste of nerve force must be repaired by sleeping and cessation from all work. Now is the time to stop, lest you come to the door of the insane asylum. I repeat, absolute rest,” said the doctor, striking his cane on the floor,[Pg 191] “and no stimulants to excite rapid circulation. The brain recovers slowly and resents too early demands on it after any injury. The general health must be maintained at the highest possible standard, and you must not worry. You must be a philosopher.”

“Doctor,” said I, “I can do better than that; I can be a Christian. I can say, ‘Yes, Lord,’ to whatever God sends. That is the philosophy of Hannah Whitall Smith, and I have tested its efficacy.”

“Yes, madam, I too,” said the doctor, “would recommend anything of a soothing, tranquilizing character. I shall call to-morrow; good morning.”

I have reflected somewhat since those days, and when a woman tells me now that she is suffering from nervous prostration I know that she is struggling with a disease—a mournful, painful, destructive actuality. Emerson says, “when one is ill something the devil’s the matter.” I know it is so with a woman, for all the peace and joy of life go out of her with sickness. I believe, too, that she would be subject to less nervous prostration if she had greater part in the more enlarging and ennobling human activities. But as mother earth reinvigorated him who touched her, so what life we have comes from God, and indwelling with the Divine ought to renew us body and soul. Christ Himself may not have revealed the miracle of health to the apostles, but He taught them to use it. Mankind soon lost connection with the spiritual dynamo of revitalization—except most intermittingly. But has this been so through necessity or by reason of gross materialism? Among “the greater things than these” of the promise, may not highly spiritualized [Pg 192]natures already be refinding the natural laws of healthful living through emphasizing the rightful dominance of man’s spiritual being? “All my fresh springs are in Thee!” “I will arise in newness of life” cannot refer to the soul without including the body, for the greater includes the less. The tendency to give less and less medicine; the declaration of the medical world that drugs are not curative; the healing of the body by the invisible forces of nature, as is being done every day—all these things electrify with the hope that the world is about to discover “the miracles in which we are nourished.” The revelation of the 20th century may be how to pull out that “nail of pain” which, according to Plato, fastens the mind to the body; and the joy of simple, harmonious existence may become a reasonable hope to suffering mortals.

After this experience of illness I made a trip through Canada and the East. With new vigor and the old interest I resumed my home duties and was preparing to enjoy our New Orleans carnival season, when one morning the housemaid announced: “Mis’ Calline, I do b’lieve Rex is come, fur dar’s er ole man at de do’ wid er shabby umbril an’ de ole-es’ han’bag—an’ he say he’s you’ cousin!” I hastened to meet him, and knew at once who it was; but the old man was in an exhausted condition. He said: “I have some brandy with me, and I need it. I have been very sick, but I thought I was well enough to come to see you once more before I die.” I administered a stimulant to old cousin Jimmie, and in a cheerful strain he continued: “Oh, you’re so like your ma, cousin. She was an angel, and your[Pg 193] worldly-minded old pa gave her lots of trouble, for your ma was pious, and she had a hard time to get him into the church. Cousin David was a fine man, too, and he had to give in at last to the blessed persuasion of cousin Betsey, your angel-mother.”

The next day I observed cousin Jimmie was holding a wooden whistle in his hand, and blowing softly into it. I inquired what it was. “This whistle,” he said, “is older than your old spinning-wheel and the ancient chiny in the corner cupboard.” “But, I enquired, what is the use of it?” Cousin Jimmie replied: “They called up the crows with it, so they could shoot ’em.” “I always regarded crows as harmless creatures whose inky blackness of color was very useful as a comparison,” I replied. “Well, you never knowed anything at all about crows,” said cousin Jimmie. “I tell you, when a crow lights on a year o’ corn, they eats every single grain before they stop; and I tell you they are suspicious critters, too—these crows! I used to thread a horsehair into a needle and stick it in a grain o’ corn, and draw the hair through, and tie it, and throw it around, and they would pick it up and swallow the corn. Then I would stand off and watch the rascals scratchin’ their beaks tryin’ to get rid o’ the hair, until they got so bothered they would quit that field and never come back. I was a little boy, them days.” “Yes,” said I, “and boys are so cruel.” “Maybe so,” said cousin Jimmie; “but I wa’n’t ’lowed to have a gun to shoot ’em—crows nor nuthin’ else. Boys was boys them days, not undersized men struttin’ ’round with a cigyar in their mouths, too grand to lay holt of a plow handle.[Pg 194] Why, some big boys, sixteen years old, can’t ketch a horse and saddle him, let alone put him to a buggy all right. I know that for a fact!”

“Do you like roast lamb and green peas, cousin Jimmie?—for that is what we have for dinner to-day; but I can order anything else you like better?” “I’m not hard to please, cousin,” he answered. “I like good fat mutton—and turnips; but cousin, them turnips must be biled good and done. Done turnips never hurt nobody. Why, when I had the pneumony last winter I sent and got a bagful—and I had ’em cooked all right; and way in the night, whilst I had a fever, I would retch out and get a turnip and eat it. Bile ’em good and done and they can’t hurt nobody—sick or well.”

“I never heard of sick people eating turnips,” said I.

“But you see I have, and has eat ’em, and am here to tell you about ’em.”

“General Grant is nominated for President,” said I, looking over the morning paper. “Grant, did you say? I’ll never vote for him! He wasn’t satisfied with $25,000 for salary, but wanted $50,000; and nex’ time he’ll want a hundred thousand. Do you know, cousin,” said the old man, “that them Yankees robbed me of one hundred and fifty niggers? The government ought to pay me for ’em. They had no more right to take them niggers than they had to steal my horses and mules—which they stole at the same time. I tell you, they must pay me for my property!” and cousin Jimmie came down with a heavy blow of his walking cane on the rug. “Ef they don’t pay me they are the grandest[Pg 195] set o’ villyuns on top o’ earth! When the blue-coated raskils was goin’ up the Cheneyville road they met up with two runaways old Mr. Ironton had caught and hobbled with a chain. A Yankee said it was a shame for a human bein’ to be treated so. Mrs. Ironton flung back at ’em: ‘I don’t care! you may show them to the President himself, and hang them round his neck, if you like.’ The old woman was so sassy that the man simmered down. I heard another officer inquire very perlite, ef it was customary to sarve the niggers this way, and I said we had to do something to keep ’em down in their places; and, no matter how bad a nigger was, he was too valuable to kill, so we punished ’em in other ways.

“To-morrow is my birthday,” sighed cousin Jimmie, “and I’ll be eighty-eight years old.” I celebrated the day for him and made him some presents; and I asked him to tell me bravely and truly whether or not he would be willing to live his life over, to accumulate all the money and estate he once possessed, to become a second time sick and old and destitute. Cousin Jimmie was silent a moment; then his aged eyes twinkled, and a smile spread over his still handsome old face: “I would try it over; life is mighty sweet; I’m not ready to give it up, cousin.” “But you must before long relinquish all there is in this life.” “Well,” said he, “I’ve made pervision. I gave my niece Mary all my silver and my red satin furniture, and my brother has promised to bury me with my people in Mississippi. I’m all right there.”

[Pg 196]“I’ve heard, cousin Jimmie, that you denied the globular shape of the earth. How is that?”

“Why, I know the earth is flat. ’Tain’t fashionable to say so, but it don’t stand to reason that the world is round and flyin’ in the air, like folks say. ’Tain’t no sech thing—else eyes ain’t no account.”

Two years more of this life, and then old cousin Jimmie—who was my father’s first cousin on his mother’s side—was able from some other planet, we hope, to investigate the shape of this one to which he had clung so loyally.



[Pg 197]



There are characters of such marked and peculiar individuality that they loom upon one’s consciousness like Stonehenge, or any other magnificent ruin, as Charles Lamb says of Mrs. Conrady’s ugliness; and their discovery “is an era in one’s existence.” In this way one of my intimate associates, Mrs. Columbiana Porterfield, stands preeminent in my early and later recollections; but I was sorry to see into her. Every time we were together it impressed me more vividly than before, that self was the great center about which everything revolved for her. All her sympathies were related to that idol. No small human creature interested her large mind, except as connected with herself. She was devoted to her church, especially to its ministers, but it was a sanctuary where she worshiped self in the guise of godliness, and her own honor and glory was what she worked for in the name of the Master. At one time the sense of her colossal selfishness so ate into my spirit of charity that I tried to work it off by writing out, to one of my intimates, the following letters which embrace actual incidents and individual experiences through which are revealed Columbiana’s[Pg 198] inordinate ambitions and desires for distinction—“her mark, her token; that by which she was known.” Perhaps she may stand like a lighthouse to warn off other women from the same shoals.


Number 1.

Miss Columbiana Porterfield was fat, fair, and almost forty years old when she became a winter visitor at Colonel Johnson’s plantation home in the far South. She was so much respected and admired by the Colonel that when his wife died he urgently invited her to fill the void in his heart and home.

The position seemed advantageous, and the lady accepted the situation, entering confidently upon the duties involved, resolving to adapt herself to her surroundings when she could not bend circumstances to her own strong will. She was a sensible woman, and her good husband loved her with a doting, foolish fondness which he had never exhibited to the departed wife of his youth.

The family servants did not hesitate in giving her the allegiance due to power and place, and they were careful to pay all deference to the new mistress; therefore Mrs. Johnson was surprised to overhear the housewoman saying to the cook: “I tell yer dat ar white ’oman from de Norf ain’t got dem keen eyes in dat big head o’ hern for nuthin’; I’m afeered of her, I is dat.” The lady was wisely deaf to these remarks, but they rankled in her mind several days.

One of the neighbors thought Mrs. Johnson was not a good housekeeper, because she had apple fritters for[Pg 199] dinner, when there was ample time to make floating-island and even Charlotte Russe before that meal was served. Yet with all this talk it was easy to see that the newly-adopted head of the household had completely identified herself with her family.

There are Americans who go to Europe, and after a short stay no longer regard the United States as a fit dwelling-place for civilized beings; who indulge themselves in the abuse of scenery, climate, customs and government of their own native land as freely as any hostile-minded foreigner. Therefore it is not strange that Northerners who come to live in the South should become attached to their surroundings, and even prefer them to all others which they ever knew.

Mrs. Johnson loved her stepchildren, Harry and Lucy. She taught them to call her “aunt,” but their own mother could not have been more devoted to the children of the father who had lain down and died amidst the great conflict which was a horror to the whole country. Mrs. Johnson was greatly agitated by the war and its results, and as soon as possible after this cruel strife was over, she took Lucy with her on a visit to her Northern home, leaving Harry behind. Among the first letters sent back was the following, dated October 15th, 1867:

My dearest Harry,—My sister was rejoiced to see me alive once more; but I feel like a stranger, for when I look at your sister I cannot realize that she is here where she does not belong. It is a visible contrast of two extremes, my family representing one, and Lucy,[Pg 200] the other. The North and South will breakfast together to-morrow morning on buckwheat cakes and codfish balls. Everybody loves your little rebel sister. Even the girl in the kitchen dotes on her, and looks lovingly on the dear girl while she is demolishing the dainty dishes she has compounded for her delectation. I don’t mean fish-balls, for she hates them.

I know she thinks Lucy is an angel, while I suspect I am thought to be exactly the reverse, judging by the disagreeable, reluctant way she has of serving me. A woman who had been teaching the freedmen down in South Carolina came here last week to collect money for them. Everybody went to hear her speak, and Lucy just went along with the rest. It was a highly improper thing for a Southern girl to do. I knew it, but could not put my veto on it and make myself odious to the family, so I held my peace and let her go, though I should have been ashamed to be seen in such a place. She told me all about it, however, and you have a right to be proud of your noble sister. She conquered her nerves and sat perched on a front seat and listened with great attention, and almost repeated the whole thing for me when she came home.

The woman dilated eloquently upon the awful sin of caste prejudice existing among the abominable South Carolina aristocrats, who, while they would accost and speak to the colored pupils, were so stuck up that they regarded the white teachers as no better than the dirt under their feet. After the speech was over, they took up a collection, and when my sister told me she saw Lucy put in five dollars, I was just too provoked to say[Pg 201] a word. To do this foolish thing after all our losses was too much—when she has ordered a new pelisse from New York, too! I could scarcely sleep for thinking of this folly. The cold weather gives me a despondency anyhow. It makes me think of my own home in the South, with all its comforts and the beautiful wood fires, now mine no longer. True, the house is mine, the dear Colonel gave me that, and the land, and the stock. There is the old family carriage and the horses; but it is bitter as wormwood and gall to have no one here to drive me out or do the smallest thing for me unless I pay out money which I no longer possess. It was a wicked thing to ruin and break up our homes like this, but, my dear boy, we must try to be content with what God sends. Our portion is not money, but water; an overflow of it in the river, and too many caterpillars in the cotton fields eating up our crops. You must be prepared to suffer poverty and affliction without slaves to polish your boots and rub down your horses. You may even be obliged to chop kindling for me to cook with, before you are done.

The old purposes, habits and customs cannot be carried out any longer. You must not think of matrimony. You ought now to wait until you are thirty years old before you attempt to make a shipwreck of your life by marriage. But I do know a perfect Hebe who would suit you exactly. She comes here often. Oh! she is a dainty warbler, not quite full-fledged, but superior, noble, magnificent in design, able to soar higher than any of those finiky, twittering little canaries you love to play with. A splendid ancestry, too, as ever lived,[Pg 202] solid, wealthy men, though some of them are deteriorated by having married wives who were nobody. Some women dwarf men’s souls by their own littleness. I hope you will not fall a victim to any such.

You must keep up the family prestige; your talents and associations demand a foremost place, and you must refuse to commonize yourself with that low, ignorant, profane, dram-drinking set of young men around you. I do heartily despise them all, and have never received them in my house when I could help it. They would gladly drag you down to their own level if they could.

How these good New Englanders rejoice in the emancipation of the slaves! All my friends and relations chuckle over it, so that it looks to me like malice triumphant. Lucy came out last Sunday in a beautiful new hat and pelisse from New York, looking like the daughter of a duchess; and old cousin Althea said that she did not look that day as much like ruin as she had expected when she saw me and Lucy getting out of the carriage in our shabby old war clothes. That old thing is perfectly hateful and always was.

If our old servants are still with you, say “howdie” to them for me. I hope Chloe has not run off with her freedom anywhere. She does make such nice waffles and French rolls. You must contrive some way to keep Chloe if I am expected to spend much time with you.

Your loving aunt,

 [Pg 203]

Number 2.

My dear Harry,—Lucy has a beau. She denies the fact, but there is a gentleman here from New York who is an intimate friend of my brother, and he looks at your sister and watches her so eagerly, and does so many things to please her and to promote my comfort, that I am dead sure it is an elaborate case of love. I do not think him a suitable match for Lucy in every respect, but he is very useful to accompany us on excursions and he manages a pair of horses admirably, and it is convenient to have such a man around. We went to cousin Sabina Suns’ yesterday, where we were all invited to dine and to meet the Bishop and Prof. Elliott. I made occasion to pass through the dining-room. Heaps of red currants in lovely cut-glass bowls, golden cream in abundance, white mountain cake and luscious peaches were set out for dessert, instead of the everlasting doughnuts and perpetual pie which you see everywhere. Not that I care for dessert. I knew we should have oyster soup and a pair of roasted fowls and all accompaniments of a regular dinner, for Sabina Suns’ girl is the best cook I have found anywhere.

We were all sitting in the west drawing-room, and the Bishop had not yet arrived, when somehow we got upon the subject of the late unpleasantness, and Sabina Suns blurted out that Jefferson Davis was a traitor, and ought to be hanged. Tears came to Lucy’s eyes and the blood mounted to her temples. She suddenly disappeared. I saw the fire in the child’s eyes and felt the bitterness in her heart, though I said nothing to her,[Pg 204] but I begged Sabina to spare our feelings, for I saw she had gone too far. In a few moments Lucy appeared with her hat and gloves and bade cousin Sabina Suns good-by, and went away before our astonishment had subsided.

I wanted Lucy to meet the Bishop and the young college professor of entomology. I had been telling her what a fine young man he was, of such a wealthy family, and it now became her to be on the lookout for some better establishment than any poor Southerner could offer. She is young and pays little attention to what I say. Sabina was rude and unkind, but the Bishop and Professor were coming, and then there was the dinner, so I remained and really had a splendid time, except for this unpleasant episode.

I intended to scold Lucy, but when I reached my sister’s house I found it was no use. Lucy’s fiery indignation would brook no reproof. She opened the flood-gates of her wrath upon Sabina without mercy. She said the woman had elevated one of her enormous feet upon the other as though such cruel language must inevitably be accompanied by some vulgar action, and her two feet so elevated seemed high enough for a common gallows post. To be candid, I was almost scared to death to see your sister so angry and spiteful. But I like a woman of spirit; it is not best, however, to run off on a tangent in the face of good company and a first-class dinner. My dear Harry, I think you are better trained, and would have shown more common sense under the same circumstances.

The Hightowers, who have so often entertained me in[Pg 205] New York, want their son Howard to come to the mountains or go somewhere to rest after he is graduated, and I have invited him to come up here as a sort of return hospitality for a long visit I made with them. The New York beau is soon to leave. I could not understand that Lucy promoted his departure in any way, but I thought Howard would be useful. Not that I think he would be a more desirable parti than the other, but it is handy to have a young fellow around to wait upon us or take us to different places. He will come next week, but I shall not apprise my sister, who might object at the last moment, though I am sure she will treat him well, as she does all my friends.

Lucy dressed herself with great elegance this evening. I did not think it was worth while to be wasting her best dry goods and her dear self on the people she was going to visit; and as I sat in her dressing-room and saw her laced up in her new lavender silk, which is supremely becoming to her lovely complexion, and then pin on a rich Brussels lace collar, I could not help reproving her by reminding her of her long deceased elder sister, who, I said, doubtless was looking down from heaven in sorrow and disapprobation of such vanities. “Oh, Aunt Columbia!” said she, “Nanny Jones was right when she said you had such a terrible way of throwing up a girl’s dead kinfolks to her; please don’t make me cry; I don’t want to go to the party with red eyes.” Henry, that Jones girl ought never to have been invited to your uncle Joseph’s house. She was an incorrigible piece, and was a great trial to me that month she spent with me.

[Pg 206]I do hope you go regularly to church. It looks beautiful to see a high-bred young gentleman sitting in his father’s pew. The desecration of the Sabbath in our Southern country is perfectly awful. I never could bear to see it. You know your uncle Joe, Christian as he proposes to be, will say to his wife: “Julia, if you must have a cold dinner once a week, get it in on a week day; on Sunday I must have something better than usual, and it must be fresh and hot.” I frequently stopped there after church and dined with him, so I was well aware of this bad example, right in our own family, as it were.

One would think, after fighting through such a long, bloody war, that our young men would have done with all private killing and murdering, and would settle down at home and be industrious and peaceful; so I was all the more shocked to hear that young Joe McDonald had shot and killed Billy Whitfield, and all about a trifling little Texas pony. Joe actually had the impertinence to write to Lucy explaining that he only acted in self-defense, and begging her not to refuse to speak to him when she returned. She shall never answer his letter or look at him again with my consent. I tremble for you, my dear boy, subject as you are to such dreadful associations, and I pray that you may be kept in safety from every evil-influence.

Make Chloe look after the poultry. If she sets some hens now, they (the chickens) will be ready for broiling by Christmas. You know how fond I am of young chickens for supper. I have eaten enough cold bread[Pg 207] up here to last a lifetime. It may be good for dyspeptics, but I am not one.

Your loving aunt,


Number 3.

My dear Harry,—I do miss the New York man. He was a quiet, sensible gentleman, and if you happened to utter an idea above the average he was always able to respond and keep the ball of conversation passing agreeably around the table and fireside. There are so many men who will not take the trouble to answer a lady’s question with any serious thoughtfulness. This boy Howard is not a goose by any means, but he is full of animal spirits and all sorts of pranks. He has kept Lucy racing about over the country so that she has no time for anything else. Two weeks ago I ripped up my old black satin dress which did not set right in the back, and there it lies waiting for Lucy to put it together—for I do hate dressmakers’ bills, and your sister learned the whole science of remodeling old clothes during the war, when she could not buy any cloth to save her life.

Lucy can embroider and do all kinds of needlework, but she is letting the needle lie idle and putting out all her own sewing, which I cannot allow her to do with a good conscience.

I noticed the other day that Howard had Lucy’s diamond ring on his little finger, and now she tells me he lost one of the stones out of it when he went after pond lilies yesterday. The boy was plagued and worried over it and said he would replace it; but that is [Pg 208]nonsense, for the Hightowers would never have sent Howard here on my invitation if they had money to buy diamonds. I made Lucy put away the ring in her trunk, and told her jewels were unbecoming to a Christian girl and her father ought never have given her any diamonds.

We are going to visit a mountain to-morrow. Lucy is wild after such things, and no wonder, living so long in a flat country which can boast of nothing which constitutes scenery, not even a pebble or a brook of clear water. These hills are perfectly heavenly with their grassy slopes ornamented by noble trees, and then the meadows so fragrant with new-mown hay; I am lost in admiration myself, so I cannot blame the raptures of this unsophisticated child of nature, who sees it all for the first time.

My sister’s horses are high-spirited creatures, and Howard, who has had no experience in driving, insisted upon taking the reins, when they ran away and Lucy was thrown out; and the funniest thing happened to her in a wonderful and providential manner; she was landed upon a bed a farmer’s wife had put out to sun before her door. She fell right in on the feathers and not a bone was broken. But my heart failed me when Howard came home at a late hour, with the side of his face scratched and bruised, and helped Lucy out of the battered carriage, which had to be repaired before it could be driven home.

I shall greatly rejoice when that boy takes his leave, for I am in hourly dread of his impetuosity in getting us into trouble.

[Pg 209]Still, he is a bright, noble spirit, and is so penitent when he does anything wrong that I must needs forgive him. I really fear my sister is beginning to weary of my young friend. I think the broken phaeton has some influence on her feelings.

I have no time to write a long letter, so I enclose one which I have just read from your cousin Maria which contains a great lesson for a young man setting out in life—one which I hope you will lay to heart.

Dear Auntie,—Tell Lucy to have the lilac silk dress made up, which she is commissioned to buy for me. We are the same size almost, so it can be fitted to her shape, and I want it trimmed with real lace. I never saw any lace while the war went on and I long to feel once more like a lady. I think a liberal quantity of fine applique or real Brussels lace would help me to realize the Union is truly restored. So Lucy must reserve one-half the money I send for the dress to be invested in this trimming.

But I must tell you, Auntie, such a strange thing happened night before last. It was after midnight and everybody was in bed when a loud knocking at the hall door waked us all up, and father went down to see who it was. What was our surprise to see our neighbor’s wife, Mrs. McAlpine, all wet with rain, without any hat or shawl, her long black hair hanging down her back, the very picture of a forlorn and despairing creature. She begged my father to take her in and conceal her, for she said she had run away from home, for her husband was going to kill her if he could find her. My[Pg 210] mother asked her what she had done to awaken such wrath and vengeance, and she replied: “Nothing at all; Mr. McAlpine had been drinking and was wild from the effects of liquor.” Mother gave the poor lady the guest chamber and sent me to her room with dry clothing, and I assisted her to undress. Auntie, when I pulled her wet dress down from her white shoulders what was my horror to see them all bruised and seamed in every direction as by the marks of whip or cowhide. “Oh, my God,” said I, “what a shame!” She quickly covered herself with the gown I brought, while tears silently flowed down her pale cheeks. My own blood boiled with indignation and I resolved that I never would speak to the handsome, gentlemanly brute who had committed this outrage upon his patient and gentle wife. I told mother what I had seen and she turned pale and told me to say nothing to anyone, but try to contribute in every way to the comfort of the unhappy guest who had come to us in such a singular way. The next day about ten o’clock Mr. McAlpine came and asked to see father. When Mrs. McAlpine found her husband was in the house she seemed crazed with a mortal terror and begged mother to lock her up in the closet and “save” her. Mother tried to reassure her, but in vain; nor did she draw an easy breath until she saw him driving down the avenue after his long interview with father was over. Late that evening father called mother and me into the library and informed us that we must not feel so hostile toward the man whose unhappy wife we were entertaining, for he was entitled to our sympathy and pity, and he was sorry to tell us that Colonel McAlpine was the wretched victim of an[Pg 211] intemperate wife, whom he had tried in vain to reform and restrain and in fact he had resorted to everything else before using the lash and my father was convinced of the truth of his version of the miserable story.

The Colonel begged us to keep the lady quiet for a day or two and then bring her home. It seemed to me nothing could excuse such brutality, and when mother grew somewhat reserved to her unbidden guest, I never varied in my conduct, and she was quick to appreciate my kindness. When two days had passed, to my surprise she herself proposed to return and asked me to drive over with her to her home. I was reluctant to leave her then, but the Colonel received her with such an apparent kindness and cordiality that I was entirely reassured and I tried to banish the recollection of those dreadful marks on his wife’s shoulders. But what could I do under the circumstances? The woman said she must go home—to her child.

You will think this is enough of tragedy, but wait, dear Auntie, until you hear the end. Last night Mr. McAlpine shot his wife through the heart, then blew out his own brains, and the whole country is perfectly horrified, and the wildest rumors are going around. Father has written to their friends in New York, and mother has agreed to take care of the baby until they come for it.

It seems really frivolous for me to go back to the dress question after these horrors, but tell Lucy to have our dresses made open a little in the neck, as they are for evening.

Yours devotedly,



[Pg 212]



In every individual life there enter events which in their enlarged influence are analogous to epoch-making periods in the nation’s history. Such, surely, was my meeting with Susan B. Anthony, when she visited the New Orleans Exposition in 1885. I had long kept a vivid and dear picture of her in the inner sanctuary of my mind; had become acquainted through the press with the vigor of her intellect and the native independence and integrity of her character; had known she was a woman “born out of due season,” who had already spent fifty years of her life trying to make “the rank and file” of women and men see that the human race in all its social relations is in bondage, while woman occupies a position less than free. I had so long been one with her in spirit and principles that I was not prepared to feel so like a little chicken looking into the shell out of which it has just stepped, as I did feel on coming face to face with all the expansiveness her many years of service for women had wrought her own justice-loving personality.

New Orleans stretched out a friendly hand to Miss Anthony. The surprise of finding her a simple,[Pg 213] motherly, gentle-mannered woman instead of the typical woman’s-rights exponent, disarmed and warmed their hearts, so that press and people received her cordially. She was invited to address the city public schools, and spoke to many appreciative audiences during the few weeks New Orleans had the uplift of her presence. In a private letter of that date she said to me: “I remember my visit to the Crescent City with a great deal of pleasure, and cherish the friendships I made there. We are finding out quite a good many fine things about women in the Gulf States, so that I think you may feel proud that so much true growth went on—even while that other problem of freedom was being settled.

Susan B. Anthony.

Miss Anthony’s work here made a permanent impression on public thought; the personal hospitality of the people meant a certain sort of receptivity of her cause, for which the war era and the more trying decade following it was a period of incubation; for unquestionably all times of stress and effort and experience of soul are seasons of enlargement, of suggestion, and form the matrix of a new life. If movement be once started in original cell structures, reforming is sure, and the new species depends on the character of the environment. Heart-rending and irremediable as were the personal effects of the war to thousands, there is little doubt but that it has resulted in definite gain to the whole people, by establishing a system of self-reliance in place of reliance upon the labor of others; and even more through[Pg 214] the liberation of the general mind from captivity to the belief in the ethical rectitude of human slavery.

But it takes the North a long time to come to any true understanding of the Southern people. Certain transient, exterior features—which are as impermanent as the conditions that created them—have been mistaken for their real character, which depends upon indwelling ideals—and these have always been thoroughly American. The leisure for thought and study which ante-bellum ease allowed to many molded a high-thinking type that was true to the best intellectual and Christian models, as the character of Southern public men has evidenced. The simple integrity of the Southern ideal has had no match in national life except in the rigid standard of New England. Puritan and Huguenot—far apart as they seem—were like founders of the rugged righteousness of American principles; and in so far as we have forgotten our origin, has the national character lost its purity.

The love of freedom is ingrained in the ideals of the South. Its apparent conservatism is not hostility to the new nor intense devotion to the old; it is more an inevitable result of thin population scattered over wide areas, with little opportunity for the frequent and direct contact which is indispensable to the rapid and general development of a common idea. It is not true that Southern men are more opposed than others to the freedom of women. The several Codes show that the Southern States were the first to remove the inequality of women as to property rights. It must also be remembered that a vigorous propaganda for the enfranchisement[Pg 215] of women has been conducted for fifty years, at great expense of time and talent, all over the North, while it may be said to have just begun in the South.

If in 1890 any effort had been made by the National American Woman Suffrage Association to influence the Constitutional Convention then in session in Mississippi, the woman’s ballot on an educational basis might have been secured. Henry Blackwell was the only prominent Northern suffragist who seemed to have a wide-open eye on that convention. What he could he did, gratis, to help the cause, and won the friendship and gratitude of many in that State. The leading women who were applied to offered not one word of appreciation of the situation—doubtless because they were accustomed to expecting nothing good out of Nazareth; perhaps also because they would not aid what seemed an unrighteous effort to eliminate the negro vote.

It is not the first time in suffrage history that the white woman has been sacrificed to the brother in black. A political necessity brought within a few votes the political equality of woman. If Mississippi had then settled the race question on the only statesmanlike and just plan—by enfranchising intelligence and disfranchising ignorance—other States would have followed; for the South generally desires a model for a just and legal white supremacy—without the patent subterfuge of “grandfather clauses.” The heartbreak of any human soul or cause is not to have been equal to its opportunity. The whole woman’s movement is yet bearing the consequences of that eclipse of vision ten years ago.

The first ground broken in the cultivation of greater[Pg 216] privileges for Louisiana women was the organization of the Woman’s Club of New Orleans. In 1884—as narrated in its history prepared for the World’s Columbian Exposition—in response to a notice in the New Orleans Times-Democrat, twelve women met in the parlor of the Young Men’s Christian Association and organized the first Woman’s Club in the South.

Miss Elizabeth Bisland, now Mrs. Charles W. Wetmore of New York, was its first president. Miss Bisland had already earned fair fame in literature, and the South was justly proud of her. She afterwards challenged the world’s notice by her swift girdling of the globe in the interest of the Cosmopolitan Magazine. The charter members of the pioneer club were of the heroic type, and amid fluctuations of hope and despair, forced on by the irresistible spirit of the age, founded a society which numbered its members by hundreds, and which secured and retained the sympathy and respect of the people.

The Constitution provided at first only for working women, but afterward eliminated this restriction. It stated that, evolved as it was from a progressive civilization, its movements must be elastic, its work versatile and comprehensive. It estimated its own scope as follows: “The vital and influential work of our club must always be along sociological lines. The term embraces pursuits of study and pastime, our labors and relaxations. In the aggregate we are breaking down and removing barriers of local prejudice; we are assisting intellectual growth and spiritual ambition in the community of which we are a dignified and effective [Pg 217]body—for the immense economy of moral force made possible by a permanent organization such as ours, is well understood by the thoughtful.” It extended hospitality in the public recognition of extraordinary achievements by women, and helped to bring aspirants in art, literature and sociology before appreciative audiences, and introduced to New Orleans many world-renowned women and men.

Being the first woman’s club in the South it was the subject of peculiar interest and attention from other organizations of women, and was wise enough, from the beginning, to ally itself with the general movement. Its delegate was a conspicuous part of the National Convention of Women’s Clubs, held in New York in 1889, under the auspices of Sorosis; in 1892 it was represented in the Convention of Federated Clubs, in Chicago, by its president and delegate, and was present in the General Federation of Women’s Clubs in 1894. It was the host, in connection with Portia Club, in 1895, of the “Association for the Advancement of Women,” which enjoyed for a week the novelty of the Crescent City and its environs.

Through its initiation, matrons were placed in station houses and a bed was furnished in the “Women’s and Children’s Hospital.” It petitioned for a revocation of Mrs. Maybrick’s sentence, and distributed rations to the sufferers in the great overflows of the Mississippi and Texas rivers. It is clearly manifest from the foregoing that the Woman’s Club was the initial step of whatever progression women have made through subsequent organizations.

[Pg 218]Following the enlarging influence of the New Orleans Exposition in 1885-86, there came the great contest to overthrow the Louisiana State Lottery. The whole energy of the church and every citizen was called into action all over the State. Women’s Lottery Leagues were formed in every town,—that in New Orleans numbering 900 members; it was denominated “the crowning influence that resulted in victory.” It is impossible to overestimate the liberative value for woman of this struggle brought to a successful issue; or to reckon how far back into inertia she would have been thrown by defeat; for the first time in our post-bellum history it united women of all classes and ages in a common moral and political battle-ground. The federal anti-lottery law which has secured the results of this victory may prove to be an invaluable precedent for anti-trust legislation.

In 1892, in response to my invitation, some of the strong, progressive and intellectual women of New Orleans were ready to meet at my house and organize the first suffrage association in Louisiana. It was formed with nine members, and was called the “Portia Club.” The officers were Mrs. Caroline E. Merrick, president; Mrs. Jas. M. Ferguson, vice-president; Mrs. Evelyn Ordway, treasurer. Through its influence Governor Foster appointed four women on the school boards of some of the Northern parishes of Louisiana. It has done excellent educational work by the discussion of such subjects as “Is the Woman in the Wage-earning World a Benefit to Civilization?” “Is Organization Beneficial to Labor?” “Has[Pg 219] the State of Wyoming been Benefited by Woman Suffrage?” “Would Municipal Suffrage for Women be a Benefit in New Orleans?” “The Initiative and Referendum;” “The Republic of Venice;” “Disabilities of Women in Louisiana.” The Portias have maintained a leading part in all public causes that have enlisted women, and in the interests of full suffrage were heard by the Suffrage Committee of the Constitutional Convention of 1898.

On the occasion of Miss Susan B. Anthony’s seventieth birthday, a reception at my house brought together not only those favorable to our undertaking but many whom it was desirable to enlist. When that gentle-faced, lion-hearted pioneer, Lucy Stone, yielded up her beautiful, self-effacing life, the Portia Club held a fitting memorial service. Mrs. Clara C. Hoffman made a most memorable suffrage address for the Portias in this city, which aroused tremendous enthusiasm. She lectured extensively elsewhere in the State, and wrote to me as follows after her visit here: “It is generally claimed that Southern people are conservative and bitterly opposed to any mention of equal suffrage. In my recent tour I found them not only willing but anxious to hear the subject discussed. I came into Louisiana at the request of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union Convention, and had been informed that I must not say anything about suffrage, as the people would not bear it. In my first address I reviewed the hindering causes that delay and prevent the establishment of needed reforms, and showed the danger of enfranchising all the vice and ignorance in the land without seeking[Pg 220] to counteract it; but I said not a word about what the counteractant might be. The convention closed with Sunday services; but before the day was gone I received an invitation from leading citizens—professional and business men—to speak in the Opera House in Shreveport at their expense, on Monday night, on woman suffrage. A packed audience greeted me when I was cordially introduced by a prominent lawyer. I presented arguments, answered objections. Round after round of applause interrupted, and many crowded about at the close, expressing themselves with utmost warmth. How is that for Shreveport, and Louisiana?”

Later Mrs. Hoffman spoke at Monroe and Lake Charles with equal acceptance. One of our city papers said of her: “Mrs. Hoffman entered bravely upon her subject, interspersing her remarks with delicious bits of witticism. She is a forcible and brilliant speaker, a radical of the radicals, but disarms by her clear, genial manner of presenting truth.”

Besides the women’s societies in the various churches, which have done so much to widen the field of woman’s thought and endeavor, the Arena Club of New Orleans, under the leadership of Mrs. James M. Ferguson, has been a vital force. While tacitly endorsing suffrage, it advances social, political and economic questions of the day. Its latest efforts have been to create sentiment for anti-trust legislation.

There has been a valuable period of training through Auxiliaries. Every great movement, social and religious, had its Woman’s Auxiliary. These helped to reveal to woman her own capacities and her utter want of[Pg 221] power. But the day of the Auxiliary is done. If some of the auxiliary women have not yet found out what woman ought to do, they have discovered the next best thing—what not to do!

In 1895 an amicable division of the Portia Club was made, the offshoot becoming the Era Club—Equal Rights Association. It was a vigorous child, full of progressive energy, and soon outgrew its mother. Its original members, like the Portia, were nine, as follows: Mmes. Ferguson, Ordway, Hereford, Pierce, Misses Brewer, Brown, Koppel, Nobles, Van Horn. At this juncture Miss Anthony, accompanied by Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt, strengthened our hearts and cause by her presence. It was again my privilege to entertain her in my home. She spoke to an enthusiastic audience and Mrs. Catt was complimented in the same way. The next morning the following letter from a leading member of the New Orleans bar was brought to Miss Anthony by a member of the Portia Club: “That was a great meeting last night. When people are willing to stand for three long hours and listen to speakers it means something. There were ten or twelve men and a score of women standing within ten feet of me, and not one of them who did not remain to the end. There are few men who can hold an audience in that way. I looked around the Assembly Hall and counted near me eight of my legal confrères. One of the most distinguished lawyers in the State told me in court this morning that Mrs. Catt’s argument was one of the finest speeches he had ever listened to. Yesterday I was asked at dinner to define the word ‘oratory.’ Mrs. Catt is an exponent[Pg 222] of ‘the art of moving human hearts to beat in unison with her own’—which is the end and aim of oratory,—and was that quality which made the Athenians who heard Demosthenes declare that they would ‘fight Philip.’ Give the speaker a lawyer’s compliments.”

Miss Anthony was much moved by this letter. “All this,” she said, “is so much sweeter than the ridicule that used to come to me in those early days when I stood alone.”

Committees from the Portia and Era Clubs met in November, 1896, in the parlors of the Woman’s Club, and organized a State Woman Suffrage Association, with Mrs. Caroline E. Merrick, president; Mrs. Eveleyn Ordway, vice-president; Miss Matilda P. Hero, corresponding secretary; Miss Belle Van Horn, recording secretary; Mrs. Boseley, treasurer; Mrs. Helen Behrens, an ardent and able pioneer and present worker in the cause, being made our first delegate to a National Convention.

In 1898, the Era Club, in the name of Louisiana women, presented to the Suffrage Committee of the Constitutional Convention, then in session in New Orleans, the following petition: “In view of the fact that one of the purposes of this Convention is to provide an educational qualification for the exercise of the franchise by which to guard more carefully the welfare of the State, we, the undersigned, believing that still another change would likewise conduce greatly to the welfare of our people, pray that your honorable body will, after deciding upon the qualifications deemed necessary,[Pg 223] extend the franchise with the same qualifications to the women of this State.”

Mrs. Evelyn Ordway, one of the most efficient and public-spirited women of New Orleans, as president of the Era Club, wisely and bravely led the women’s campaign. Owing to a rain which flooded the city, the most of the woman’s contingent were prisoners in their homes on the day the petition was procured. Mrs. Lewis S. Graham, and Misses Katharine Nobles, Kate and Jennie Gordon alone were able to cross the submerged streets to the Committee room. Mrs. Graham made the leading address, and was ably supported by her colleagues. Mrs. Carrie Chapman-Catt, aided by Misses Laura Clay, Mary Hay and Frances Griffin, had been busy creating public sentiment by means of brilliant addresses both in and out of the Convention. Dr. Dickson Bruns should be ever held in grateful memory for his constant and unflinching efforts in behalf of the woman’s petition, which was presented in Convention by the Hon. Anthony W. Faulkner of Monroe.

There were many women and a few noble men who were deeply stirred over the fate of our memorial. I wrote to Miss Belle Kearney just after this hearing: “You are needed right here, this very day, to speak what the women want said for them now that the other speakers are gone away. I am so dead tired and heart-sore that I almost wish I were lying quiet in my grave waiting for the resurrection! God help all women, young and old! They are a man-neglected, God-forgotten lot, here in Louisiana, when they ask simply for a reasonable recognition, and justice under the [Pg 224]Constitution now being constructed, and under which they must be governed and pay taxes. We pray in vain, work always in vain. How that grand old martyr, Susan Anthony, can still hold out is a marvel. The Convention has apparently forgotten the women. They discuss the needs of every man and his qualification for the ballot. Yet, good women brought such men into the world to keep other women in subjection and minority forever!—still, they love that sinner, man, better than their own souls—and I know they will continue that way to the end. But it is hard lines to be kept waiting. The dead can wait, but we cannot! Oh, Lord, how long!”

Once again, however, it was proven that nothing is ever quite so bad as it seems, for the convention did give the right to vote to all taxpaying women—a mere crumb—but a prophetic-crumb. This much being gained led, in 1899, to the organization, through the initiative of the Era Club, of the “Woman’s League for Sewerage and Drainage.” That variable and imponderable quantity, “influence,” now had added to its much invoked “womanly sweetness”—power—a power which could not only be felt but which would have to be counted.

Mrs. Ordway tells in a little review of the movement, that several months previous to the election many of those who voted would have scouted the idea that they should do so unwomanly a deed;—voting belonged to men. Many did not even know that they had a right to vote. The question proposed to them was one affecting the health and prosperity of New Orleans—whether or[Pg 225] not they were willing to be additionally taxed in order to secure pure water and an effective system of drainage. There were about 10,000 taxpaying women in the city, many of them small householders, owning the little homes in which they dwelt. Owing to New Orleans being peculiarly situated below the level of the Mississippi river, and to the fact that there is no underground drainage, many parts of the city are inundated during heavy rains. There was much at stake. No wonder the women were interested, and that parlor and mass meetings were held, in which women were not only invited but urged—even by the mayor and other prominent men—to come forward with their votes. When election day arrived, women found that they did want the franchise, one-third of the votes cast being contributed by them. After months of hard work and a house-to-house canvass for signatures of taxpaying women, who would vote personally or by proxy, the battle was won, as was universally conceded, by the energy of the woman’s ballot.

Very many men and women soon realized the need of full suffrage for women, in a quickly succeeding campaign for the election of municipal officers who would properly carry out the people’s intent for sewerage and drainage. Though they could not vote every courtesy and respect was accorded the women, and their influence was appealed to by the respective sides. The day has dawned for woman’s full enfranchisement in Louisiana.

In her farewell address after the victory the president of the Woman’s League, Miss Kate M. Gordon,—president of the Era Club,—who had led the women’s[Pg 226] forces with an intelligent courage and dignity that won universal admiration, stated as follows: “At one time the success of this great work was seriously threatened by an element of conservatism raising the cry, ‘It is simply suffrage movement!’ While it is hard to disassociate suffrage from any work which depends on a vote for success, and while the word, defined by Worcester, means ‘a vote, the act of voting,’ yet it seems a poor commentary on the intelligence, patriotism and even sagacity of that conservatism to raise the question when the life of a city was trembling in the balance, and that city their home.

“In justice to women holding suffrage views, I ask are they to be treated as a class apart because they believe intelligence and not sex should be the determining power in government? Is there any wrong in believing that power added to influence would be a factor in creating and enforcing laws for a higher moral standard? Where is the woman, who, holding the power, would not use it to enforce the laws for the protection of minors, and to give to character at least the same protection given to property? Where is the woman who would withhold her power from creating and enforcing a law to read; ‘Equal pay for equal work’? Is it unwomanly to believe the wife’s wages should belong to the wife who earned them? Is it unnatural to resent being classed with idiots, insane, criminal and minors—and so on, ad infinitum?

“The Woman’s League contributed with no sacrifice of womanliness, but with a sacrifice of personal comfort, to an education against apathy and indifference,[Pg 227] to the Godlike charity of helping men to help themselves—the keynote of physical as well as moral regeneration. As women throw the power of your influence against the dangers of proxies. The proxy vote is not a personal expression; it is giving manifold power into the hands of one individual, and therefore un-American.”

This wide-awake Era Club has now a petition before the trustees of Tulane University praying that this progressive institution will no longer refuse to open its Medical School to women. It also memorialized its last legislature for the right to be accorded to women to witness a legal document; for, incredible as it may seem, there still remains among Louisiana statutes, as a survival of the French habit of thought, toward females, the disability of a woman to sign a paper as a witness.

Soon after the New Orleans Exposition, Miss Susan B. Anthony wrote me, while I was president of the Louisiana Woman’s Christian Temperance Union: “I long to see the grand hosts of the Temperance women of this nation standing as a unit demanding the one and only weapon that can smite to the heart the liquor-traffic. The Kansas women’s first vote has sent worse terror to the soul of the whisky alliance of the nation than it ever knew before.” The temperance hosts through bitter defeats long ago learned that they cannot carry their cause without the ballot, and “as a unit” they may be said to desire it and to work for it. They know Miss Anthony spoke words of soberness and experience. The first day there was a great debate, in the Constitutional Convention of our neighbor State, on[Pg 228] methods of suffrage, about the middle of the day some one met a pale, haggard prince of liquor dealers rushing excitedly from the gates of the Capital. “My God!” he exclaimed, “if they let the women in our business is dead! We must do something!”—and he hurried to convene his partners in iniquity. What they did is not proclaimed; but immediately nearly every newspaper in the State began to pour in gatling-gun volleys against enfranchising women.

About the time Miss Anthony wrote me respecting Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton coming to lecture. “I do not want her,” she said, “to be translated before all of your splendid New Orleans women have seen and heard her.” And so I feel about Miss Anthony, I do not want her “to be translated” until she has seen the Louisiana woman vote as unrestrictedly as the Louisiana man.

But I should like to ask this question of those men and women—and there are many such—who are convinced of the righteousness of the women’s ballot, but who do not come forward and strengthen the struggling vanguard of a great movement,—

“Why is it that you choose to blow
Your bugle in the rear?
The helper is the man divine
Who tells us something new;—
The man who tells us something new
And points the road ahead;
Whose tent is with the forward few—
And not among the dead.
You spy not what the future holds,
A-bugling in the rear.
You’re harking back to times outworn,
A-bugling in the rear.”



[Pg 229]



Why should women regret the golden period of youth? There are things finer and more precious than inexperience and a fair face. When a friend of Petrarch bemoaned the age revealed in his white temples, he replied: “Nay, be sorry rather that ever I was young, to be a fool.” Joyous and lovely as youth is—and it always seems a pity to be old in the springtime when everything else is young—how many of us would be willing to be again in the bonds of crudities, the embarrassments, the unreasoning agonies, and to the false values youth ever sets upon life? Youth longs for and cries out after happiness; it would wrest it from the world as its divine birthright; it does not understand itself or anybody else; and the pity of it all is that youth is gone before it has grasped the fact that its chief concern is not to be loved but to be lovely.

Age is content with comfort. “Content,” did I say? Nay, old folks are always wanting more and more comfort, until they seem out of harmony with surrounding objects and circumstances. I think it is Ruskin who says that there are “much sadder days than the early ones; not sadder in a noble, deep way, but in a dim, wearied way—the way of ennui and jaded intellect.[Pg 230] The Romans had their life interwoven with white and purple; the life of the aged is one seamless stuff of brown.” And this is true, so far as beauty of existence is expressed by variety.

Perhaps there are few periods of keener suffering to any one than when he first realizes that he is growing old. This experience is none the less sharp for being universal; but it comes with peculiar poignancy to a woman, because of the fictitious estimate that has always been placed upon her good looks. They are her highest stock in the market, not through her own valuation but by man’s. If she has never had beauty, still less can she afford to lose any charm which youth alone confers. This pain of loss with the majority of women is not an expression of mere vanity, but—as with a man—it arises from a fear of waning power, the dread of inability any longer to be a factor in the world’s value; from the horror of having no longer an aptness to attract, of being no more desired, of filling no true place in life—any or all of which is enough to make a soul cry out for death.

That there is something wrong with our social structure is not more surely indicated than by the present demand in all fields of labor for only the young man or woman. The span of life is perceptibly lengthening for most civilized peoples; yet, with increase of days, old age is set forward instead of being proportionally postponed. Thirty years ago it was considered that a man must make his success by fifty years of age, if he made it at all; now it is said that unless a man has made his mark at thirty he is already written down “a back[Pg 231] number.” No profession to-day, perhaps, chronicles so many tragedies as that of the teacher; for school and college give the preference to the young applicant who has yet to prove if he have the making of a teacher in him, while rejected experience dies of a broken heart. Not long since, it was stated in The Outlook, in reference to the ministry, that a man over forty years old was not wanted to fill important charges. Last year I heard a conversation between a young missionary from China and a woman of superior attainments, a wide knowledge of life, high spiritual culture, and who was not yet old; who, moreover, was one of the sort who never grow old. They talked of the advisability of older women entering the foreign mission field. The missionary advised that the other make application to the Board, but frankly stated that the missionaries abroad did not wish anybody of her age because she would have established opinions which might conflict with the younger members’ control of the mission. The church no doubt can well account for its preference for young people; but it has seemed to me rather hard on the heathen that they must be the subjects of untested enthusiasm, however “consecrated” and zealous it may be.

The tendency to fasten old age prematurely on our people by the rejection of practical knowledge for the brawn of youth, seems to find an explanation mainly in the all-prevailing commercialism of the day. The herding of productive industries in syndicates and trusts has destroyed the individual in the industrial world: it is not the man who is employed, but “the hand”—so many hands in the office, so many at the[Pg 232] machine; and these are “put on or knocked off” according to the sum totals of the ledger. Manhood is the football of the dividend, and grows less and less as the latter grows more and more. Everywhere it is the same; the young with few ties and responsibilities are most plastic to the interests of the business; pawns have widest range of movement, and whoever can cover the most ground for the least money is the person in demand.

“Trade! is thy heart all dead, all dead?
And hast thou nothing but a head?——
O Trade! O Trade! would thou wert dead!
The time needs heart—’tis tired of head.”

It is more than shocking to think of the effects on the English-speaking people—ever inclined to sadness—of saddening them still more by pushing into the background those who have passed the first flush of youthful vigor. It is even worse to reflect upon the over-confidence, the over-consciousness and the irreverence of youth increased by a preference which does not point to intrinsic value. Whoever has lost his reverence is already degenerate; that soul which has lost hope and courage is dead to achievement, and is unproductive for himself and his country. Let us give to youth all its due for its keen curiosity, its vivid expectation, its unreflecting daring, its joy of pure existence, its all-the-world-is-mine spirit, and let us give it opportunity and ever growing privilege; but, as we value reverence, as we honor knowledge, as we cherish a well-tried faith, as we trust a noble courage born of proof, let our[Pg 233] customs teach that “Youth ended—what survives is gold.”

While so much that is beautiful and attractive inheres in youth, it is maturity that possesses perfect charm. Women should remember this and begin early to cultivate faith in their power to grow. They should endeavor to learn to live along a line of steady development; to keep themselves in the forefront of thought and endeavor; to repudiate old age as more a matter of want of will than of necessity—and so abjure a statement I have recently heard from a young physician—that the only disease for which there is no remedy is old age. There is a remedy in living en rapport with the subtle forces of growth. Learn the laws of life and dwell in them; persevere in helping one’s self instead of being helped, and it will astonish the world how long one may live with “natural force unabated”—yes, and with beauty and power. It is unnatural to grow old and die; though everybody seems to do it, the bitter protest against it is a proof that it is against nature. There must be a better way out than by failure and decay. Live as an immortal here and now, and in fulness of time the fetters of the flesh will simply drop off, like the shell of a locust, and life will go on—from glory to glory.

I have grown old myself, but I could have kept younger if my attention had early enough been turned that way. All that I can do now is to tell other women to be wiser than I have been—and I wish to tell them, for:

“The best things any mortal hath
Are those which every mortal shares.”

[Pg 234]Perhaps all women do not know that the menopause of life is not a signal for old age. Released from her child-bearing functions, a new lease of life is taken out; intellectual power is greatly increased; women should then, in the ripeness of experience, the mellowness of judgment and the opportunity for comparison which the years have conferred, do their best brain-work; besides, there is usually an added beauty of person, a renewal of vigor of every kind. At the same time—just as then the look of some ancestor we have not before been thought to resemble begins to crop out in our faces—is there a tendency toward the return of natural defects of character; faults of youth long deemed dead rise up and defy us. As never before should women be aware that now their charms must be those of an inner grace, a spiritual beauty; as they have received during all the long past, so now must they give out fully, freely—keeping back not one jot or tittle of life’s riches for self; so will they get very close to the other world before they get in it.

Women have always interested me. I have studied them deeply. They have virtues and foibles which are equally a surprise—“and still the wonder grows.” After a long lifetime of comparison, however, I am persuaded that men and women are by nature neither better nor worse the one than the other. How often do we find some boy to be the sweetest-souled child in the house and the timidest, while his sister is the strongest, most unmanageable, and the leading spirit. We are our father’s daughters and our mother’s sons; and superiority of either—in mind, person or morals—is as[Pg 235] it happens and not by reason of sex. Many differences are but the results of education and would disappear should the two sexes be treated under identical influences. Many so-called virtues of women and vices of men are but the fruits of environment and of the tone of the public thought.

The shielded, subject position of woman has originated as many weaknesses in her as excellences. She is the victim of her own devotion, as well as of her necessity to please the one on whom she and her children are dependent. If she is illogical, as is claimed, it is only because her deductions have not generally been made the rule of action in private or public. It were futile to run down a proposition to its legitimate conclusion when somebody else’s conclusions are to be in force. A man’s deductions have to stand the test of actual practice, and not only he but all dependent on him must sink or swim by their correctness. The logic of the condition is simply that of the trained and the untrained—as may be proven by the fact that proportionally as many women as men who have been thrown into business or professional life succeed. If women are not frank, as is sometimes charged, let me ask how any one can cultivate the high grace of ingenuousness who in all the ages past had to gain her ends by indirection, and who may utter not her own thought and opinion and will but that which shall be pleasing to another? The irresponsibility of her position in great things has created a corresponding irresponsibility in other scarcely less serious matters; for instance, in a freedom of expression about persons that a man would not dare[Pg 236] to indulge in, because he knows he must be prepared to defend, with his life, if need be, the accuracy of his statement. I have sometimes thought the two most irresponsible of creatures in speech are a college boy and a woman; and for the same reason—that both hold a position of minority which never involves a strict accountability.

A distinguished physician once lavished upon a lady, both of them my guests at the time, such a superfluity of flattery that I afterward expostulated with him. “Oh, madam,” he answered, “I give her compliments as I would give a beggar a dime. It is what she baits and angles for, so I hand her out what she wants!” It is a human merit to desire to please; it is equally human to like to hear when we have succeeded; but excess of merit ceases to be meritorious. I have often wondered if woman’s subjection has developed such a slavish spirit in her as sometimes deserves the contempt conveyed in the above incident?

On the other hand the chief vices of a man are the result of his ruling attitude as head of the race. Where there is absolute power there is always abuse of power. The tyrant must be the chief sufferer for his tyranny. His absolutism has caused him to fix in law and custom the expression of his own desires and ideals without due regard to the interests of the rest of humanity—womanhood and childhood. Thereby, great vices inhere in social life of which man is the direct victim. He has not given himself a proper chance to develop into his best, because in the exercise of his unfettered rights he has fastened upon the social organism [Pg 237]institutions, temptations and habits which start him out handicapped, and even with congenital obstructions to his legitimate evolution. This will be the case so long as it is considered proper that the little boy at his mother’s knee may hear and see and do things which it is wrong that his little sister may not hear and see and do.

But slowly, slowly, this misinterpretation for the race is correcting. We are told that in 1827 (while I was yet in my infancy) “Von Baer discovered the ovule—the reproductive cell of the maternal organism—and demonstrated that its protoplasm contributed at least one half to the embryo child. Before this time man was said to be ‘the seed and woman the soil.’ The establishment of equal physical responsibility opened the question of the extent of the mother’s mental and moral responsibility.”—Like as the vegetable and animal kingdom are indistinguishable in their lower orders, so boys and girls differ little in their natural characteristics until they enter upon the period which marks their differentiation in function. There is nothing rudimentary in the formation of the female body; it possesses two entire organs—the uterus and the breast—which are wanting or rudimentary in the male. These organs, according to Webster, are “the seat of the passions, the affections and operations of the mind.” Their functions constitute woman’s special domain, her exclusive kingdom, where man cannot intrude, which he may not share.

Nature recognizes the importance of the mother by restricting the exercise of her peculiar office to the[Pg 238] meridian of life—her ripest maturity—in order that the race may be protected in full vigor. Other parts of her being, which may have lain dormant or in partial disuse through over-estimated activity in other directions, now awake, and late in years women may perform wonders in an intellectual and business way. I recently heard a wise and brilliant speaker—a man—say, “I never try to make a man over forty years old grasp new ideas of action. He cannot. There’s something the matter with him—whether pride of opinion or rigidity of brain I know not; but I do know that it is different with a woman. She seems to be always receptive.”

The twentieth century begins with a reconstructed mental state toward the race. It does not believe in woman’s natural inferiority, nor in man’s exclusive ideals. It recognizes that the wellbeing of both man and woman consists in a whole humanity, and that there can be no whole humanity with anything less than perfect freedom for both halves of it. The right to freedom of thought and liberty of speech is established for a woman nearly as fully as for a man; but the past stretches out a ghastly finger, and looking back to precedent, delays full freedom of action; hereditary inertia, the chains of ancient prejudice and the strength of present customs are obstacles to be reckoned with in the rapidity of future development. But women and men are now both thinking, are both educating for the battle of life, are beginning to tramp side by side in the march of ideas and endeavor. Mothers realize intensely that if they had known how better to rear their sons[Pg 239] there would already be a better race; but they have been so held down during all the ages that they have not understood how to make a free, noble son, and a daughter fit to mate with him.

Sometimes the way seems long and devious, and human apprehension is so dull that our hearts faint. There is so much to correct in creatures as well as in conditions that we wonder why even Divine patience does not despair. But there is to me logical encouragement in the reflection that actually up to the date of my own birth, girls were admitted into the public schools of Boston only during the summer months when there were not boys enough in attendance to fill the desks; science and all but rudimentary mathematics were considered beyond their faculties. Not only high schools but the chief colleges of the world are now open to women, and co-education is a growing determination. Women are now admitted—as reported by the Commissioner of Education—to one hundred and fifty colleges and universities in America. Of these one hundred and five are denominational—notwithstanding that the liberty wherewith Christ maketh free has been the root of woman’s emancipation. To-day all the professions except the ministry are open to women; yet there are many women evangelists, and others who have taken the course in theological schools. Woman has learned the power of organization, and her full political liberty is now in sight. Some persons are afraid that the activity in woman’s interests exhibited during the last quarter of a century will experience a reaction. Well, religious revivals, like showers on earth, are always [Pg 240]followed by a dry spell. Still—let us have rain! We should not be disheartened because history always moves in spirals, and not by direct ascent.

The new century begins with a radiant idea which now seems a new-born impulse of the present day; yet nineteen hundred years ago it haunted the heart of the divine Judean philosopher and prophet. This hoary new idea is that love alone can

“Follow Time’s dying melodies through,
And never lose the old in the new,—
And ever solve the discords true.”

The true keynote of human harmonies is struck at last. Little by little the ages have caught the vibration until the listening heart can already discern the great anthem of the future—the “Hallelujah Chorus” of Equality, Brotherhood. Standing as we do midway between two centuries, to-day the music of the past and of the future is ringing in our souls. A new world looms into view. Along its bright and shining way we see a humanity ennobled because well-born, of a free and willing mother and a self-controlled, justice-loving father, and because in all its systems and customs it is “Thinking God’s thoughts after Him.” If I did not believe this I could not have written out my little life-story. Now in the sunset of my days I wish to sound out to all women full and clear the note of hope that is growing every day in sweetness and power in my own spirit: “It is daybreak everywhere.”

As a last word I know no more heartening comfort than Rabbi Ben Ezra’s:

[Pg 241] “Grow old along me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life for which the first was made;
Youth shows but half; trust God;
See all, nor be afraid.
Let age speak the truth and give us peace at last.”



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