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WITH NOTES AND QUERIES
AN INCIDENT OF THE ALABAMA CLAIMS ARBITRATION
O man who ever knew Benjamin Franklin Stevens, who was
for so many years the American Despatch Agent at London,
'but valued that acquaintance. Mr. Stevens was a rare man, and, notwithstanding his long residence in England, he was a thorough American and an intense lover of his country. He was born in Vermont in 1833,* and after a short experience at Montpelier, at Albany and at Washington, he was called to London to aid his brother, who had preceded him to England. He became so useful to Americans that his merits were recognized, and in 1866 he was appointed Despatch Agent for the United States of America, resident at London, and continued to discharge his duties as such as long as he lived. He died in 1904.
It was my privilege to make his acquaintance about ten years ago on one of my visits to London, and ever afterwards when I visited that city I enjoyed his fellowship, and looked forward to it as one of the pleasures of my vacation.
Mr. Stevens' service extended over so many years of our national history, in its most stirring times, in which he must have been an actor, that his memory must have been stored with many incidents, intensely interesting, connected with the history of our country and yet unknown to written history.
On one of my visits to England with my wife and daughters I spent nearly a week with Mr. Stevens and his wife in the George Hotel at Winchester. Sometimes together we were off in the daytime visiting things that interested both of us, and then again he and I would be off in the daytime separately, each visiting something of interest to himself, and in the evenings we would sit together in the enclosed and covered garden and talk until late, while he entertained us with incidents which
* See his Life, by George Manville Fenn, London, 1903, a most interesting book.—(Ed.). Copyrighted 1907 by Ralph E. Prime.
had happened during his residence in London. During that week he told me of many such events, in which he was an actor himself, which were of absorbing interest to me, and are utterly unknown to the mass of Americans, and have never been written, and which are probably even now unknown to any one connected with any recent administration of the national government.
I have been invited to write, as nearly as I can recall, the statement which Mr. Stevens made to me concerning one of those incidents, and which, so far as memory serves me, I have never spoken of to exceed on four occasions.
But to the appreciation of it by many of the generation since born, and who never learned much about its details, it will be necessary briefly to recall other things connected with the history of the Civil War, and there are many older persons who at the time were of mature years, but to whom, with the flight of time and the fullness of these later years, those events are at least very dim to recollection, and for them we will be excused if we to some extent recall some of the events of those days, and details which perhaps even they never knew.
The great and detestable heresy of the right of a State to secede from the American Union probably had its birth in Massachusetts as early as the differences of 1808. Encouraged by the disloyal acts thus early of New England men, John C. Calhoun, native of South Carolina, and then Vice-President of the United States, in 1830 set forth his form of the heresy under the name of Nullification. Andrew Jackson, another Southern man, a native of the Carolinas, but a citizen of Tennessee, was then President of the United States, and to him the nation owes a like debt as to Abraham Lincoln, for Andrew Jackson, with the ardor and violence of his Southern nature, stamped out that crime with a remarkable proclamation, and by his even more remarkable threat that for the first overt act he would place John C. Calhoun, the great Nullifier, and Vice-President of the United States, behind bars. In November, 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States; and from that time, if not before, commenced preparation for secession of the Southern States from the Union, the greatest crime against our country which history records, and which then ripened, and in April, 1861, culminated in the first acts of overt resistance to law and authority in our great Civil War.
The war was on. The Southern coast was effectually blockaded