Skip to main content

Full text of "Biographical sketches of Hon. John C. Breckinridge, Democratic nominee for president : and General Joseph Lane, Democratic nominee for Vice President"

See other formats







{jpcnweratie glcnunce for f resident, 



gcnwcratic |tomince for Dice ^rcsiicnt 









The history of John C. Breckin- 
ridge, the nominee of the National De- 
mocracy, for the highest office within 
the gift of the American people, is one 
of the most brilliant and successful in 
the annals of the distinguished men of 
our country. He was descended from 
an ancestry, both on his paternal and 
maternal side, who were distinguished 
in the wars of the Revolution ; in the 
subsequent political conflicts and his- 
tory of the country, and especially 
distinguished for their great services 
in the advancement of religion, learn- 
ing, and good morals. In Kentucky 
the name of Breckinridge is held in 
special veneration ; for it is connected 
with the authorship of the first regular constitution of Kentucky and the 
celebrated State-rights resolutions of 1798, and is also connected with the 
first efforts made in Kentucky to open the navigation of the Mississippi to 
the great West. Of his ancestors on the maternal side are Witherspoon and 
Smith, the former a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and both 
presidents of Princeton College. The connection is an extremely large one, 
and has been characterized by patriotic and useful services through 
several generations. He was born near Lexington, Kentucky, on the 16th 
of January, 1821, and, although not forty years of age, is the second offi- 
cer of the Government a position, it is universally conceded, he fills with 
great ability, dignity, and impartiality ; and now, .by the unanimous voice 
of his party, he is presented for the first office selected to bear their 
standard in the approaching Presidential contest, to contend for those great 
constitutional principles of justice, right, and equality for which his 
fathers struggled during the stormy days of the Revolution, and who dedi- 
cated the energies of their gifted minds in establishing and defining the 
true principles of our glorious Constitution, under which we have grown 
from a few feeble and sparsely-peopled colonies to be a great confederacy 
of thirty-three sovereign States, teeming with a population of more than 
thhtiy millions of free, prosperous, and happy people. 

M*, Breckinridge lost his father at an early age, and with his mother 
and he\four other children, was left almost entirely dependent. With, 

however, the generous aid of relatives and his own constant exertions, he 
was enabled to pass through the necessary course of studies required to 
enter upon the professional career he had marked out for himself. He 
graduated at Centre College, Kentucky, in 1888, passed six months as 
resident graduate in Princeton, pursued his law studies under the instruc- 
tion of Judge (afterwards Governor) Ouwsley, and completed them at the 
Transylvania Law School. 

Admitted to the bar in 1841, he determined to try his fortune in a 
new land. Accordingly, with no heritage but his talents and fair name, 
he set out in the fall of that year with a friend, and, leisurely pursuing his 
way to observe the country, he settled in Burlington, Iowa. It was, in- 
deed, the then far-distant West ; for Mr. Breckinridge, during his two 
years' residence in Iowa, hunted the elk and buffalo on the site of its 
present capital. Thus, in the earliest period of his manhood, was Mr. Breck- 
inridge thrown upon the remote frontier ; and he knows, from the warm 
and heartfelt associations of those days, the patriotic, noble, and self-sacri- 
ficing character of the American pioneer. 

In 1843, on a visit to Kentucky, he addressed and married Miss 
Mary C. Burch, of Scott county, his present wife, a lady endeared to all 
by her domestic virtues and her accomplished manners. She was largely 
connected with the influential families of Kentucky, aided by whose in- 
fluence the friends of Mr. Breckinridge induced him to abandon the idea 
of returning to Iowa. He settled in Georgetown, Kentucky, and rose 
rapidly to distinction in his profession. But he early took part in the 
political contests of his State in 1844, canvassed it for Mr. Polk, and 
from that period has borne a prominent share in every political conflict. 

The Mexican war broke out, and the gallant sons of -Kentucky were to 
be found in the front rank of the armies of the Republic. The glorious 
yet mournful history of Buena Vista especially rejoiced and saddened the 
heart of Kentucky. There many of her bravest sons, her Clays, her 
McKees, her Hardins, slept their last sleep. It was resolved that their 
remains should be gathered up, taken to the capital, and there consigned 
to the tomb amidst the tears of the people, and with all the solemnities 
which reverence and love could dictate. Mr. Breckinridge was the orator 
of the occasion, and pronounced a most admirable and affecting eulogy. A 
call was soon made upon Kentucky for additional troops. It was deemed 
a critical and turning point of the war. General Scott had advanced 
upon the city of Mexico. His rear was in possession of the enemy. His 
troops had been greatly reduced in battle and by disease. Larger and 
more perilous movements were in contemplation. Under these circum- 
stances Mr. Breckinridge volunteered, and received from his old preceptor, 
Gov. Ouwsley, the only commission of field officer conferred by him upon a 
Democrat, viz : that of major. On reaching the city of Mexico, in De- 
cember, he found the war virtually at an end, and the regiment to which 
he belonged was employed in garrison duty to hold the city of Mexico, and 
to protect its inhabitants from pillage and disorders. During his stay in 
the city of Mexico, Major General Pillow was tried by a court of inquiry. 
Major Breckinridge's fine legal talents were required on that occasion, 
when he distinguished himself by his able and successful defence of Gen- 
eral Pillow. 

At the close of the war he rejoined his family and resumed his pro- 
fession. Frank, manly, generous, and just, with a heart that never 
throbbed with one pulsation, save for the honor and welfare of his 
country, he soon became a great favorite with the people, who, fully 
appreciating his commanding talents and noble qualities, called him 
from retirement to represent them in the legislature of the State. 
Although the county was opposed to him in politics, being Whig by 
a large majority, yet such was the admiration of the people for the 
sterling qualities of his heart, and the brilliant character of his mind, 
that he was elected in the year 1849, by a decisive majority over his 
Whig competitor. Among the foremost in support of Mr. Breckin- 
ridge was that unrivalled orator, Henry Clay, who abjured his politics 
to pay a just tribute to the worth and ability of the gallant young 

Upon the meeting of the legislature, he was honored with the 
Democratic nomination for Speaker, and received the unanimous vote 
of his party. His term of service was brief, but he left upon the leg- 
islature the impress of his eloquence and talents, by his able advocacy 
of the cause of education, internal improvements, and every other 
measure which tended to promote the cause of moral and material 
progress. During this session, he introduced a series of resolutions 
affirming many of the principles subsequently enacted into the com- 
promise legislation of 1850, and they received the support of the en- 
tire Democratic party in the legislature. 

Duty to his young and growing family required that he should 
return to his profession, when he declined a re-election ; but the 
people, quick to discern and prompt to reward true worth and true 
greatness, would not permit him to pursue that course which the 
dictates of his sound judgment and affectionate heart had marked out 
for himself. In January, 1841, the Hon. L. W. Powell was nomi- 
nated as the Democratic candidate for Governor. Yielding to the 
urgent solicitations of his personal friends, and the pressing demands 
of one of the most enlightened constituencies in the world, who as- 
sured him that his candidacy would materially aid Mr. Powell's 
election, he reluctantly consented to become a candidate for Con- 
gress in the Ashland District. It was a serious proposition. A 
young man with a family depending upon him for support, was 
called on to lead a forlorn hope, when defeat seemed inevitable. 
The name and home of Clay, hallowed the ground of contest in the 
hearts of his devoted followers. They were loyal in their attach- 
ments and confident in their strength ; they had wealth, influence, 
numbers, and they would sacrifice all before the spot of their idolatry 
should be profaned by the triumphant march of those they deemed 
infidel to their principles. To defend their citadel, to represent their 
sentiments, the Whigs selected their most gallant champion, General 
Leslie Coombs, whose fame is as extended as the Republic, lie had 
b&en a soldier with Harrison and Croghan ; had shed his blood to 
res(Sac the women of Kentucky from the savage and brutal foe, and 
to avenge her men betrayed and murderea at the River Raisin. He 
had given a gallant son and a fortune to the cause of struggling 

Texas. He was identified with the fortunes of the great chief he had 
served so faithfully and loved so well. He was an eloquent and 
experienced speaker, a politician perfectly familiar with the questions 
past and pending. He was an able, manty, and generous foe, and 
therefore the more formidable before a Kentucky constituency. With 
a full foreknowledge of the inequalities of the contest, Mr. Breck- 
inridge, obedient as he has ever been to the call of duty, at great 
personal sacrifice, entered the contest, and, to the consternation of his 
opponents, and to the surprise and delight of the Democracy through- 
out the Union, after a most protracted struggle of seven months, was 
elected by 530 majority, a change of more than two thousand votes. 

When it was subsequently insinuated in Congress that he owed his elec- 
tion to foreign aid, "No, sir," said Mr. Breckinridge; "I came not here 
by the aid of money, but in spite of it. I have to say that I represent a 
district in which the money power of the Commonwealth is concentrated, 
and that money power is in the hands of my opponents. It was loudly 
proclaimed in the streets of the city where I live that I should be defeated 
if it cost $50,000 to do it ; and I can tell the member from New York that 
at least 30,000 were spent for that purpose, and, as the result shows, in 

The opposition were defeated, but not conquered; they determined 
to make another desperate struggle to rescue the district from the 
grasp of the Democracy. They cast carefully about for the strongest 
of their champions, and decided in convention to call Governor 
Letcher to the conflict of 1853. lie was a strong man; he had reached 
the highest honors his State could confer on him ; in his hands the 
Whig banner had never lost a victory or suffered a defeat, and his friends 
deemed him invincible. The nomination of this gentleman was an- 
nounced with shouts which reached the ears of his youthful com- 
petitor, as he lay stretched upon a bed of sickness : his courteous 
competitor called to tender him a short respite from the toils of the 
canvass, but the shouts of his opponents had aroused the indomitable 
spirit of the gallant invalid, when, after returning his thanks to Gov. 
Letcher for his courtesy, he replied: a No, sir, do not delay your can- 
vass on my account; take the stump, and I will meet you as soon as 
my strength will allow." He did so ; the contest was long, fierce, 
and bitter ; again was the invincible Breckinridge triumphantly re- 
elected by a majority as decisive as that over his first competitor his 
invincibility proved, the prestige of success stamped upon his brow, 
and his district, which for the first time was rescued by him from the 
Whigs, now lost to the opposition, in all probability, for ever. 

His brilliant career in Congress for four years is fresh in the recol- 
lection of all. While he was the faithful and efficient representative of 
all the interests of his immediate constituents, he was the bold, manly, 
and fearless advocate of Democratic principles and measures, 'and was 
universally acknowledged as the leader of his party by his friends and 

Indeed, his power to combine a proper attention to the minutest wants 
of his constituents and to th? details of the public business, with a steady 
and powerful grasp of the great political and public questions of the day, 


evince a breadth of capacity and systematic habits of business which fit 
him for the first place in the Republic. Thus an indemnity for the widow 
and orphans of the gallant McKee, relief for certain constituents who had 
made expenditures by order and on account of the government, reim- 
bursement of losses to a contractor for the discontinuance of a mail service 
of great importance to Kentucky, the removal of restrictions upon the 
location of military land warrants, the getting an appropriation for the 
purchase of an American cemetery near the city of Mexico, where the 
remains of our gallant soldiers were gathered under the protection of their 
country's flag, were, among others, objects to which he gave his exertions, 
and in all of which he was successful, except in the case of removing 
restrictions upon the location of military land warrants. 

As an evidence of his great judgment and capacity in conducting mea- 
sures through the House, we will refer to the deficiency bill of 1853. It 
had been rejected by the House, and recommitted to the Ways and Means. 
The committee reported back the same bill, and entrusted Mr. Breckin- 
ridge with its management in the House. It was vigorously resisted. The 
discussion lasted several weeks. Mr. Breckinridge was always at his post, 
answering objections, explaining doubtful points, interposing to cut off 
indiscreet speeches from friends, turning of the hostility of opponents by 
a kindly word, and finally, with scarcely the loss of a single item, carried 
the bill through by a vote of 138 to 111. In the course of the debate, 
Mr. Breckinridge said: U I am perfectly aware, Mr. Chairman, of the 
responsibility which I have personally incurred in attempting to conduct 
this bill through the committee, [of the Whole,] and that it would be im- 
possible, having the bill in charge, to engage in irrelevant and heated 

Upon the advent of the Know-Nothing party Mr. Breckinridge was the 
first to take the stump in Kentucky to attack it. There he laid down the 
broad proposition that all men, citizens by our laws, were equal, and that 
any distinction made on account of birth or creed was at war with the 
principles of our government, and tended to overthrow the liberties of 
our country ; and in Congress he made the first speech upon the sub- 
ject, in which, standing upon this proposition, he exposed in a most 
masterly manner the fallacy and destructive tendencies of its creed, as at 
war with the social relations of life, and a fatal blow aimed at civil and 
religious liberty. 

In a debate on a bill reported Ly Mr. "Wentworth, of Massachusetts, 
on the 3d March, 1855, to prevent the importation of certain classes 
of foreigners to this country, after an able exposition of its absurdity 
and injustice, Mr. Breckinridge said: 

"I do not propose to enlarge on this subject. I regard this bill as one of the fruits of the 
prescriptive feeling which is just now pervading this country. I know it is popular, and I 
know it is sweeping like a hurricane from one end of the country to the other; but it is in 
conflict with the fundamental principles of our. system of Government, and I am willing to 
^ppose my hand to it, and await the t'tmc when there ehall be a reaction in the public sen- 
nment, as I know there will be. I want the gentlemen 'of this House to know that, if they 
vo\e lor this bill, they draw ft distinction between the poor and the rich, and allow only the 
lattat class to come, nor can they come except with a pass in their hands, like a negro going 
from one plantation to another.' 1 ' 

The reaction in public sentiment, which Mr. Breckinridge's sagacity 


foresaw, quickly came, when Know NTothingism vanished before the 
light of investigation like the mists of the morning before the rising 

In general debate Mr. Breckinridge discussed, in a philosophical and 
elaborate manner, some of the greatest questions of the day, and distin- 
guished himself by his hand-to-hand encounters with the most experienced 
fladiators of the House. Thus, in the discussion between him and Mr. II. 
larshall, the real issue was so directly and vigorously thrust back 
by the former, that, notwithstanding Mr. Marshall's great logical acumen 
and fertility of resource, the equilibrium of the contest was fully restored. 
Mr. Breckinridge, in an encounter with Mr. Giddings, so pressed him 
that the latter fiercely denied the power of the federal government to 
enact a fugitive slave law, or to employ the force of the country to en- 
force it. But he particularly signalized his fidelity to his friends and 
principles by his defence of the gallent soldier of Kentucky, General 
William 0. Butler, and of a long array of able and experienced statesmen, 
attacked in the January and February numbers of the Democratic Review, 
1852. The name of General Butler had been presented to the Democracy 
of Kentucky as a nominee for the Presidency. Francis P. Blair having 
in this event signified his intention to vote for him, General Butler was 
falsely charged with being infected with free-soil sentiments, and indeed 
with having formed a coalition with the Free-Soilers. These charges 
were repeated and grossly exaggerated in the February number of the 
Democratic Review. An incidental allusion having been made on the 
floor of the House to the slander against General Butler, Mr. Breckin- 
ridge, on the 3d March, 1852, rose in his vindication, and that of the 
other statesmen villified and slandered in the Democratic Review. The 
letter of General Butler on the subject, which was endorsed by Mr. 
Breckinridge, and which the latter read to the House, was so sound and 
national in its enunciation of constitutional rights and principles as to 
forever put to rest the infamous slander uttered against him. Taking 
the sentiments of this letter in regard to tho Territorial question, which 
were endorsed and defended by Mr. Breckinridge, in connection with 
the several speeches of the latter, and especially his speech in the House 
of Representatives on the 23d of March, 1854, on the Kansas Nebraska 
Bill, it will be found that the question of the equal right of the several 
States to participate in the enjoyment of the Territories is placed on the 
precise grounds of the platform adopted in June last by the National Dem- 
ocratic party which put Mr. Breckinridge in nomination. 

At the risk of subjecting ourselves to the imputation of presenting this 
question out of its regular order, we will now consider Mr. Breckinridge's 
views in regard to the slavery question. 

General Butler, in his letter to Mr. Breckinridge, said : 

" In a few years more our wild Territories will become prosperous States, nnd each State 
will settle within its own borders the question of slavery by constitutional enactments. 
That none can question. In the .meantime the right of the contending parties, whether 
real or imaginary, will remain unimpaired." 

Thus, at that early day, the veteran hero and statesman of Kentucky 
and his champion on the floor of the House, clearly enunciated the great 
principle held this day by the National Democracy that the question of 


slavery in the Territories was to be settled by constitutional enactments 
on their admission as States into the Federal Union. In the speech of 
Mr. Breckinridge, 0n tbje Kansas and Nebraska bill, delivered in the House 
of Representatives, on the 23d of March, 1854, the soundest and most 
enlarged views are given upon the subject of territorial power. Not a 
sentence is to be found in this speech in conflict with the platform of the 
National Democracy in June, 1860, or with the speech of Mr. Breckin- 
ridgc at Frankfort, accepting the office of Senator in Congress, to which 
he had just been elected by the Legislature of Kentucky. 

This speech is remarkable for its clear statement of the legislation of 
Congress at critical periods of our history, and its powerful analysis of the 
motives and movements of parties. The compromise of 1820 was simply a 
plan of adjustment to ward off threatened peril to our country. It abridged 
southern rights. It gave to the North undue influence and ascendency. 
Yet Mr. Breckinridge showed that it was repeatedly violated by the par- 
ties under free-soil and abolition influences, and that in repeated epochs 
of our history the admission of Missouri the annexation of Texas there 
had been exhibited on the part of the great Democratic party of our coun- 
try a fixed determination to abide by it. The great struggle came in 1850, 
when that compromise was trampled under foot by the refusal to extend 
the line of 36 30' to the Pacific, and the issue was joined between those 
who insisted upon Congress prohibiting slavery in the Territories, and those 
who demanded that the question of slavery in the Territories should be 
left to the people who inhabit them, subject only to the Federal Constitu- 
tion. This latter principle prevailed. It was determined that all parties 
should abide by the decisions of the courts in the matter of the title of a 
master to his slaves in the Territories. Thus these compromise measures 
of 1850 practically repealed the Missouri compromise line, and estab- 
lished the principles of the Kansas-Nebraska act, and of the platform of 
the National Democracy of 18(50. 

Referring to the compromise of 1850, Mr. Breckinridge, in the speech 
alluded to, said : 

" But by the other construction [that it was a permanent policy] it was indeed a final 
settlement, a settlement which removes from the federal theatre the only question that 
can disturb our domestic tranquillity, and leaves Congress in the future nothing to do in 
connection with it, except to apply the established principles as the occasions arise. No, 
sir : whatever some gentlemen may say now, the people were not guilty of the folly im- 
puted to them by the opponents of this bill. Their patriotic acclamations went up to 
Heaven over an act of healing statesmanship, not over a political job. They accepted those 
measures, not as a truce to faction, but as a bond of lasting concord." 

Again, speaking of the compromises of 1820 and 1850 : 
"They [tho abolitionists] opposed both these settlements. They will adhere to neither 
in good faith, but will appeal to them or reject them as may best promote their incendiary 
purposes " *,*.," These are the questions to be decided in good faith by 

those who recognize compromises as something more important and durable than ordinary 
acts of legislation. While for those who opposed them both, and who spurn all settle- 
ments touching slavery, the less that is said either of compromise or of plighted faith the 
tier." "Such was not the sense in which that great compromise [of 

Co] was accepted by the American people " * " Who, then, are tho 

ngit&tors ? Who are faithful to the compromise of 1850 ?" 

In discussing the principles of the Kansas and Nebraska bill, Mr. 
Breckinridge used the following expressions : 

"The effect of the repeal, [Missouri compromise line,] therefore, is neither to establish 
nor to exclude, [slavery,] but to leave the future condition of the Territories dependent 


wholly on the action of the inhabitants, subject only to such limitations as the federal Con- 
stitution may impose." . * * * "It will be observed that the right of the people 
to regulate in their own way all their domestic institutions is left wholly untouched, ex- 
cept that whatever is done must be in accordance with the Constitution the supreme law 
for us all. And the rights of property under the Constitution, as well as legislative 
action, is properly left to the decision of the federal judiciary. 

" Then, sir, neither the purpose nor effect of the bill is to legislate slavery into Nebraska 
nnd Kansas ; but its effect is to sweep away this vestige of congressional dictation on this 
subject, to allow the free citizens of this Union to enter the common territory with the 
Constitution and the bill alone in their hands, and to remit the decision of their rights 
under both to the courts of the country. Who can go before his constituents refusing to 
stand on the platform of the Constitution ? Who can make a case to them of refusing to 
abide the decision of the courts of the Union ? :> 

After discussing the relations between the General Government and the 
Territories, he thus sets forth the principle which should govern and limit 
the power of Congress to legislate for the Territories : 

"I have already said that the Constitution nowhere expressly grants political power over 
the Territories. Let us bear in. mind, then, that it can only be an implied power, to be 
exercised by a limited government, over a region, the common property of States which 
created this limited government; and the inference is irresistible that it must be exercised 
.in the spirit of the political system out of which this limited government springs. It would 
follow, if the power were expressly granted; but flows with greater force since it is only 
derivative. What, then, is the spirit of the system? I answer, the equality of the States." 
* * # The Territories "are regions of country acquired by the common efforts and 
treasure of all the States ; they belong, therefore, to the States, for common use and enjoy- 
ment. The citizens of the States are to inhabit them; and, when the population shall be 
sufficient, they are to become equal members of the Union." 

These extracts are sufficient to show how Mr. Breckinridge went to the 
heart of the matter in 1854. The principle then was, both on the part of 
Congress and of the Territorial legislature, the equality of the States. 
Questions of property under the Constitution were to be decided by the 
courts. Congress, then, had simply to see that the principle of equality 
was maintained inviolate, and that the decisions of the courts were en- 

But to resume : 

The January number of the Democratic Review attacked almost every 
man in the Democratic party whose name had been mentioned in connec- 
tion with the Presidency. The veteran and experienced statesmen, who 
had stood by Andrew Jackson, and had in various fields of duty advanced 
their country's honor and renown Buchanan, Marcy, Houston, Butler, 
and Cass were held' up to public odium and contempt as the fossil re- 
mains of a past generation, altogether antiquated, unequal to the pro- 
gressive tendencies of the age. It was boldly asserted that the times 
demanded men with " not only young blood," but "young ideas," to 
conduct the affairs of State. 

Mr. Breckinridge, after exposing the gross misrepresentations of the 
Review, and declaring it had traduced the most honored names in the 
Democratic party, thus gave his own views of conservative progress : 

" Let me say a word now upon this question of progress. I profess to be a friend of 
rational progress; but I want no wild and visionary progress, that would sweep away VI 
the immortal principles of our forefathers ; hunt up some imaginary genius, place him on 
a new policy, give him ' Young America' for a fulcrum, and let him turn the world upside 
down. That is not the progress I want. I want to progress in the line of the principles 
of our fathers ; I want a steady and rational advance not beyond the limits of tbe fed- 
eral Constitution ; but I am afraid that such progress as is now talked about would carry 
us elear away from that sacred instrument. I want to progress by ameliorating the con' 


dition of the people by fair, just, and equal laws, and by simplicity, frugality, and justice 
marking the operations of the federal government. Above all, I hope to eee the Demo- 
cratic party adhere with immovable fidelity to the ancient and distinguishing landmarks of 
its policy. These are my opinions on progress ; and I think the sooner we canvass and 
winnow and sift away opposite opinions the better." 

The writer of these articles was known to be the devoted partizan of 
the only prominent man mentioned in connection with the Presidency who 
had not been referred to by him in terms of disparagement. The Review, 
in fact, assailed, to use Mr. Breckinridge's words, "all the candidates 
except the distinguished Senator from Illinois, (Mr. Douglas,) who seems 
to be a particular favorite." This called up Mr. Richardson, of Illinois, 
who protested that these articles were written without the knowledge of 
Judge Douglas, and were against his views and wishes; and also that Mr. 
Douglas having learned that a violent attack was to be made upon General 
Butler in the February number, did all he could to prevent it, but without 
effect. Mr. Breckinridge concluded in these w6rds: "Again, I say, let 
us be just; let us be fair. Let no man by himself, or through his friends, 
attempt to promote individual interests by traducing others. If this course 
be continued, we will not succeed ; we ought not to succeed." 

Ever the faithful advocate of the reform of abuses in the Govern- 
ment, and economy in its expenditures, he boldly opposed all monopo- 
lies, subsidies, and extravagance. 

Amongst the various combinations which were formed, to fasten 
themselves upon the Government, as perpetual stipendiaries, during 
his service in Congress, were " the Ocean Steam subsidies." 

Steam lines had been built chiefly with public money, to run to 
Liverpool, California, and Oregon, and applications were made to 
admit other parties to participate in the national gratuity. Lines were 
asked to Antwerp, to the West Indies, to Brazil, Venezuela, Havana, 
Hamburg, Genoa, Gibraltar, Marseilles, Toulon, and China, and with 
an expansive enterprise not to he controlled by considerations of race 
or region. This combination of enterprise and capital Appealed to all 
sections of the Union, and to all interests of society, appealing alike 
to the patriotism of the honest, the aspirations of the ambitious, and 
the interests of the sordid. The aggregate appropriations asked for 
this purpose, with the sum already applied to a similar purpose, 
amounted to more than six millions of dollars. 

The combination to carry this gigantic monopoly was powerful and 
harmonious. In the language of Mr. Breckinridge, the steam bounty 
system commanded " the most powerful and determined outside pres- 
sure ever brought to hear upon any deliberate body." 

It was against this powerful monopoty that Mr. Breckinridge sig- 
nalized his~ stern integrity of character and devotion to the ^public 
weal, by one of the most powerful, brilliant, and successful assaults 
upon this monopoly ^ever made in any deliberative assembly. 

Upon an amendment made in the Senate to House bill to supply 
deficiencies in the appropriations for the fiscal year ending June 30, 
1852, granting additional compensation to the Collins line of steamers, 
he made his great speech. He demonstrated that the proposed amend- 
ment of the Senate was to supply no deficiency, because it was not 
pretended that the Government of the United States had failed to per- 


form strictly its agreements with Mr. Collins and his associates ; he 
denounced it as the result of a practice becoming too common of re- 
quiring necessary appropriations to sustain others of doubtful pro- 
priety, and regarded it as a fruitful source of mischievous legislation, 
which he was ever ready to oppose. He said : 

' Heretofore the money expended upon our ocean mail system has been paid on the princi- 
ple of a contract, and the Government was supposed to receive a valuable consideration. 
The two objects avowed were to obtain for a fair price the transportation of the mails and 
the germ of an economical marine. But the question now presented is- wholly different. 
We are urged to open the Federal Treasury for the purpose of sustaining certain commer- 
cial lines 'in a national competition.' We are told they must go down, in the rude con- 
tests of commerce, unless they are sustained by the public money. The true question, when 
stripped of all disguises, is, Shall the Government become the partner of individuals and 
companies in commercial operations, thus inflicting a double wrong, by giving peculiar 
advantages to a small fraction of the community, and at the same time collecting the capi- 
tal it subscribes by taxation from those who are to be oppressed by the monopoly ? ;; * * 
"If, by the adoption of this amendment, the principle is established 1 that Gov- 
ernment money shall be expended to support private commerce, what limit shall be assigned 
to the application of this principle? The precedent, if adopted for the benefit of the Col- 
lins line, like every other bad precedent, will be the fruitful parent of a pernicious brood of 
laws, and will engraft a radically false policy upon the legislation of the country. 

;i Sir, in my judgment the proposition before the committee involves the highest interests 
of trade and the true policy of America. As we shall decide it, so will we determine whether . 
commerce shall be free or fettered ; whether the carrying trade of the country shall be fast- 
ened upon the public treasury; whether the free ocean shall be covered with the hulls of 
commercial monopolies, wielded by the power of the Government, and levelled against the 
enterprise of its own citizens." 

Having exhibited elaborate tables to show the present character and cost 
of the. ocean postal service, and of the additional expense of similar propo- 
sitions pending before Congress, he says : " These lines will involve a 
yearly expenditure to the government above the present contracts of at 
least four and a half millions of dollars. This estimate is sufficiently low, 
though not, perhaps, strictly accurate, because all the applicants have not 
specified the compensation. If to this amount be added the present ap- 
propriations, we have a total annual expenditure for this single branch oi 
the public service of about six millions of dollars, and after these are estab- 
lished we shall, doubtless, as heretofore, have numerous applications for 
new lines, pressed with great industry and ability, as well as for increased 
pay to those already in operation." 

Besides, however, exposing the vast expenditures which the proposed 
system involved a system exceeding, " both in the number of lines and 
amount of appropriations to them, the whole net work of navigation, with 
which we are told England has encompassed the globe" in continuing his 
speech, Mr. Breckinridge showed how the steam interest had escaped the 
responsibility of their first engagement to furnish an auxiliary steam navy, 
and he proved, by official data, that the vessels built by Collins & Sloo, 
and others, for naval service, were unfit for that purpose. 

In the course of his able argument, which exposed the unconsti- 
tutionality, extravagance, and inexpediency of granting this gratuity, 
he paid a beautiful compliment to our navy and commercial marine. 
He said: 

" I am a friend to our commerce, and favorable to all proper facilities for extending our 
communications with foreign countries ; I am a friend, also, of the navy. The history of 
my country presents too many pages adorned by its achievements, to allow me to speak 
aught in its disparagement. I never can be false to the memories that connect it with tke 


A / 

crisis of 177G and 1812, nor ever forget that when the commerce of America retired from aH 
the seas, and hid itself under embargoes and nets of non-intercourse, our gallant navy con- 
tended, not inprloriously, with the first power in Christendom, and avenged the wrongs \?e 
had long suffered from England. 

' I am by no means insensible to the national honor and commercial renown which the 
Collins steamers have conferred upon our country. In common with others, I have exulted 
over the victory in steam navigation won -by them for America, and should regret to learn 
that the enterprising- capitalists to whom they owe their existence had sustained losses from 
their princely adventure. My sympathies are warmly enlisted for those who have contended 
so nobly with the lirst naval power on earth for the mastery of the seas. But are such 
sympathies a proper basis for legislation, when, too, that legislation must impose stiH 
greater burdens upon the people. Admit the plea in one case ; legislate away five hundred 
thousand dollars upon it from an almost exhausted Treasury in one instance, and where are 
you to step '! \\ Lire is the builder, and where are the owners of the yatch 'Arneiico,' which 
lately won such brilliant honors in English waters? With what consistency could Congress 
deny financial aid and protection to them, when demanded upon the ground that they, top,, 
had conierud natioral honcr and naval glory upon our country? The pride of Britain 
boasting that she holds the trident of the seas, was not more humbled by our triumph in 
steam navigation, than it was in August last by the success of that little American craft, 
built in New York by American shipwrights, and manned in England by American free- 
men. The British people have spent centuries in peifecting their sailing vessels, and Eng- 
lish supremacy on the ocean has been the cherished object of national desire. One of her 
poets sang, in xultiug strains 

' Her march is o'er the mountain ware, 
Her homo is ou the deep.' 

But such n boast is now idle; Albion no longer 'rules the wave.' The last plank to 
which she clung was wrested from her by an American shipwright and by American indi- 
ridual enterprise." 

Having shown that all such paynfents from the public treasury as con- 
templated by the ocean mail service were made " to private individuals, 
for the construction of private ships for private gains," he continued: u lfany 
reference to the Constitution of the United States may be made in these 
days of magnificent monopolies and wholesale plunder, without calling up 
a smile of derision, I would inquire where that instrument confers the 
power to give such gratuities ? And I desire to be pointed to the -clause 
empowering us- to tax one interest for the purpose of building up another. 
I put the question to Republicans everywhere, and especially do I com- 
mend it to gentlemen of the Democratic party a party whose cardinal 
principles have ever been in direct conflict with such abuses." 

Heroically resisting the influences around him, with an eye single to 
his country's weal and renown, the impassioned orator closed his 
powerful speech on this occasion in the following manner : 

" Mr. Chairman, this amendment may pass this House, as it has passed the Senate. I know 
the power of the influences at work in its favor; personal friendships, local interests, con- 
tinued solicitations all these are actively exerted, and are hard to resist. You may suc- 
ceed in giving to the Collins line alone nearly one million of dollars a year; you may suc- 
ceed in maintaining a little longer this ocean aristocracy, supported, like the British nobility, 
by the sweat of the people, but the day of its destruction will come. Every step taken in 
continuation of this system increases the number to be retraced, because a principle which 
is both false to our destiny, and unjust, cannot find a permanent resting place in the Amer- 
ican statute book. When the country comes to understand and realize the effects of this 
legislation, it will demand its instant and final repeal. 

Mr. Chairman, the time will not allow me to pursue this subject further, nor to speak of 
other abuses now weighing down the Government. The universal tendency among those 
who hold delegated power in a country whose resources are ample, is to extravagance. It 
is time again to inscribe on our banners ECONOMY, RETRENCHMENT, REFORM ; and for one, I 
will labor faithfully with those who, instead of constantly seeking for new resources of ex- 
penditure, shall strive to curtail the already enormous cost of this Government." 

The President sustained the grounds taken by Mr. Breckinridge, in his 
veto message, from which the following extract is made : 


\ - v 

" This bill will, in effect, confer a gratuity, whilst nominally making provision for the 
transportation of the mails of the United States. 

" To provide for making a donation of such magnitude, and to give to the arrangement 
the character of permanence which this bill proposes, would be to deprive commercial en- 
terprise of the benefits of free competition, and to establish a monopoly 1 , in violation of the 
soundest principles of public policy, and of doubtful compatibility with the Constitution." 

Not receiving the requisite two-thirds on the taking the vote on the 
receipt of the veto message, the bill failed to become a law. 

The little opportunity afforded Mr. Breckinridge, owing to the universal 
acquiesence of the Democratic party in the tariff of 1846, to participate 
in any Congressional discussion upon that subject, accounts for the .absence 
from his record of anything with reference thereto, except in a single and 
important instance. 

In 1854 an immense lobby congregated at Washington, in the pay of 
the vast interests desiring the repeal of the duty on railroad iron, with the 
selfish purpose of enriching themselves out of the immense amount of the 
depletion in the revenues of the country which would follow their success. 

Mr. Breckinridge being opposed to special legislation in all its forms, 
but more particularly where it proposed to disturb a well-composed system 
of acquiring revenue at the mere demand of rich capitalists, and always 
opposing a firm resistance to the march of the lobbyist against the integ- 
rity of legislation, took an active part in defeating the bill for that pur- 
pose, and succeeded by his untiring energy and great influence in the House 
in killing it. 

His tribute to the character and services of Henry Clay, upon in- 
troducing resolutions of respect to his memory, the day after his death 
in Washington, was the most beautiful, touching, and eloquent ever 
delivered in the Halls of Congress. When the tall, manly, and dig- 
nified .form of the young orator arose to offer the resolutions, every 
eye was turned upon him ; a breathless silence pervaded the Hall and 
the crowded auditory in the galleries, and, as he portrayed, "in thoughts 
that breathe and words that burn," the virtues and talents of the illus- 
trious orator and statesman of Kentucky, and mourned the nation's 
loss of this great man, many an eye was bathed in tears, and many a 
bosom heaved with emotion, in response to his glowing eulogy upon 
the departed statesman, orator, and patriot. 

The hand of no master ever painted a more faithful, life-like portrait 
than is to be found in the vivid delineation of the character of the un- 
rivalled orator and statesman, Henry Clay, when Mr. Breckinridge 

" As a leader in a deliberative body, Mr. Clay had no equal in America. In him, intellect, 
person, eloquence and courage united to form a character fit to command. He fired with 
his own enthusiasm and controlled by his amazing will, individuals and masses. No reverse 
could crush his spirit, nor defeat reduce him to despair. Equally erect and dauntless in pros- 
perity and adversity when successful, he moved to the accomplishment of his purposes with 
more resolution; when defeated, he lallied his broken bands around him, and from his eagle 
eye shot along their ranks the contagion of his own courage. Destined for a leader, he every- 
where asserted his destiny. In his long and eventful life he came in contact with men of all 
ranks and professions, but he never felt that he was in the presence of a man superior to him- 
self. In the assemblies of the people, at the bar, in the Senate, everywhere within the circle 
of his personal presence, he assumed and maintained a position of pre-eminence. 

" But the supremacy of Mr. Clay as a party leader was not his only nor his highest title to 
renown. That title is'to be found in the purely patriotic spirit which, on great occasions, 


- . us signalized his conduct. We have had no statesman who, in periods ot real and im- 
minent public peril, has exhibited a more genuine and enlarged patriotism than Henry Clay. 
Whenever a question presented itself actually threatening the existence of the Union, Mr. 
Clay, rising above the passions of the hour, always exerted his powers to solve it, peacefully 
and honorably. Although more liable than most men, from his impetuous and ardent nature, 
to feel strongly the passions common to us all, it was his rare faculty to be able to subdue 
them in a great crisis, and to hold towards all sections of the Confederacy the language of 
concord and brotherhood. 

"Sir, it will be a proud pleasure to every true American heart to remember the gre'at oc- 
casions when Mr. Clay has displayed a sublime patriotism when the ill-temper engendered 
by the times and the miserable jealousies of the day seemed to have been driven from his 
bosom by the repulsive power of nobler feelings when every throb of his heart was 
given to his country, every effort of his intellect dedicated to her service! Who does not re- 
member the three periods when the American system of government was exposed to its se- 
verest trials ; and who does not know, that when history shall relate the struggles which 
preceded and the dangers which were averted by the Missouri compromise, the Tariff compro- 
mise of 1832, and the Adjustment of 1850, the same pages will record the genius, the elo- 
quence, and the patriotism of Henry Clay? 

" The life of Mr. Clay, sir. is a striking example of the abiding fame which surely awaits 
the direct and candid statesman. The entire absence of equivocation or disguise in all his 
acts was his master key to the popular heart ; for, while the people will forgive the errors of a 
bold and open nature, he sins past forgiveness who deliberately deceives them. Hence, Mr. 
Clay, though often defeated in his measures of policy, always secured the respect of his oppo- 
nents, without losing the confidence of his friends. He never paltered in a double sense. The 
country was never in doubt as to his opinions or his purposes. In all the contests of his time, 
his position on great public questions was as clear as the sun in a cloudless sky. 

"Sir, standing by the grave of this great man, and considering these things, how con- 
temptible does appear the mere legerdemain of politics ! What a reproach is his life on that 
false policy which would trifle with a great and upright people ! If I were to write his 
epitaph, I would inscribe, as the highest eulogy, on the stone which shall mark his resting- 
place : ' Here lies a man who was in the public service for fifty years, 'and never attempted to 
deceive his countrymen.' " 

It may be remembered tbat the relations between Mr. Clay and Mr. 
Breckin ridge were of the most cordial and friendly character. We 
have already mentioned the support given him by that statesman upon 
his election to the Kentucky Legislature; and we may add, that Mr. 
Breckinridge was much with him in the latter years and closing scenes 
of his life, and always cherished a sincere admiration for his talents, 
and veneration for his virtues. 

During the second term for which Mr. Breckinridge was elected to 
Congress, he was nominated by President Pierce, and confirmed by the 
Senate, as Minister to Spain; but he declined the honor, preferring to 
comply with his representative pledge to the people who had elected 

After four years of continuous service in Congress, where he demon- 
strated his high qualities as a statesman, and his power as a brilliant 
orator, he retired again from public life, and resumed the practice of 
the law. 

In the language of a speech made by him, in 1855, he said : 

"During the past four years, in which he was wholly devoted to public life, his private 
affairs and the health of his family had so suffered, as to have left him without a choice, but 
ompelled him, by the highest obligations he could recognize, to retire from a position in 
which he must neglect the care he owed to one whom it was his first duty to cherish." 

To show how he was esteemed, even by his political opponents, we 
give the following extract from the Louisville Journal, edited by the 
talented Prentice : 

" We believe him to be a conscientious and honorable as well as a most able man. We 
have been half-afraid, during the canvass, to express fully our opinion of him, lest our Whig 
friends in his district, and elsewhere, might deem it untrue to the interest of our party, * * 


Mr. Breckinridge is a pure and noble-hearted man, and a liberal-minded politician ; he ' -* 
earned and won at home, and at Washington, as high a reputation for talents as belongs to 
any man of his age in the United States. * * The Hon. John C. Breckinridge, in a fetter 
to 'his constituents, declines a re-election to Congress. He will be much missed in that body. 
His great urbanity, his perfect fairness, and his powerful talents, made him one of the very 
foremost of its master-spirits. He has a national reputation, and nobly has he won it." 

Mr. Breckinridge was chosen oqe of the delegates from Kentucky to the 
Cincinnati Convention. Thecircumstancesuuder which he was nominated 
by that Convention for Vice President of the United States, we give from 
John Savage's book, styled "Our Living Representative Men." After 
the nomination of Buchanan for the Presidency, several names were of- 
fered for the second office among others, that of John C. Breckinridge, 
proposed by the Louisiana delegation, through General J. L. Lewis. 
Acknowledging the flattering manifestation of good will, Mr. Breckin- 
ridge begged that his name would be withdrawn. On the first ballot, 
however, the Vermont delegation, through Mr. Smalley, believing that 
no Democrat has a right to refuse his services when his country calls, 
cast its five votes for Breckinridge. Many other States followed; and 
of the total he received fifty-one votes second on the list, and only 
eight under the first, General Quitman. On the second ballot, Maine, 
New Hampshire, and Vermont led off for Breckinridge; Massachusetts 
followed, with eleven out of thirteen votes. Rhode Island followed, with 
her four; then tjhe New York Softs gave him eighteen; Delaware, 
Maryland, and Virginia voting in the same way. It became quite ob- 
vious that he was the choice of the body; and though several of the 
remaining States voted for other candidates, they quickly, one by one, 
changed their votes the several delegates making neat and appropriate 
speeches in announcing the change. The names of other candidates 
were withdrawn, and the whole poll went for John C. Breckinridge; 
at which the Convention rose, and with waving of handkerchieis and 
the loudest vocal demonstrations directed its attention upon the tall 
and graceful delegate from Kentucky, who had been so unexpectedly 
nominated for so exalted a post. It was long before the demonstrations 
subsided, so as to allow a word to be heard. At last, the commanding 
figure of Mr. Breckinridge stood, fronting the mighty triumph. It 
certainly was a time to try a young man. He spoke briefly and be- 
comingly. The result just announced was unexpected, and his pro- 
found gratitude was without words. He gave the Convention the 
simple thanks of a true heart; and expressing his appreciation of their 
first choice, and linking his humble name with that of the tried states- 
man of Pennsylvania, cordially endorsed the platform, and sat down 
amid the booming of cannon and the vociferous applause of the multi- 
tude outside, breaking in upon and almost overpowering the loud 
cheers within the hall. 

By virtue of the office of Vice President, Mr. Breckinridge is President 
of the Senate; but can take no part in its deliberations. With a com- 
manding person, a full and melodious voice, and a quick perception, no 
officer has ever presided over that august body with more graceful 
dignity and impartiality, is the universal sentiment. 

Upon the removal of the Senate from its old and time-honored cham- 
ber to the new and beautiful chamber where it holds its meetings, Vice 

17 , 

President Brcckinridge delivered an address, replete with noble and 
patriotic sentiments, clothed in language remarkable for its purity and 
beauty, and closed with the following stirring appeal to Senators to 
preserve the Constitution. 

"And no\v, Senators, we leave this memorable chamber, bearing with us, unimpaired, the 
Constitution we received from our forefathers. Let us cherish it with grateful acknowledgments 
to the Divine Power who controls the destinies of empires, and whose goodness we adore. 
The structures raised by men yield to the corroding tooth of time. These marble walls must 
moulder into ruin; but the principles of constitutional liberty, guarded by wisdom and virtue, 
unlike material elements, do not decay. Let us devotedly trust that another Senate, in 
another age, shall bear to anew and larger chamber, this Constitution, vigorous and inviolate, 
and that the last generation of posterity shall witness the deliberations of the Representatives 
of American States, still united, prosperous, and free." 

With that modesty and diffidence which ever characterizes merit, 
John C. Breckinridge has never sought any of the responsible offices 
and distinguished honors which the American people have conferred 
upon him, as a willing tribute to his talents, his patriotism, and hie 
integrity. He has rather avoided than courted them. In a speech 
which he delivered in the hall of the House of Representatives, at 
Frankfort, Ky., December 21, 1859, after his election as United States 
Senator, he feelingly and beautifully returns his thanks for the honor 
conferred, pays a just tribute to the merits of his competitors, and 
clearly and forcibly defines his views upon the great and absorbing 
question of the equality of all the States in the Territories, purchased 
by the common treasure and blood of all. We quote the following: 

"This election occurred in my absence. If I had been in private life, it would have 
given me pleasure to mingle personally and interchange opinions with my fellow- citizens 
here. But under existing circumstances, I thought it more respectful to the Legislature,* 
to remain where my public duties called me. 

"It is probably not necessary, yet I am sure every generous spirit will pardon me for 
referring to some vague rumors which have reached my ears, tracable to no distinct 
source, and apparently owning no respectable parentage, to the effect that my election 
was the result of some understanding or arrangement between certain distinguished gen- 
tlemen and myself, or between their triends and mine. Nothing could be more unjust 
and insulting to you. and to all embraced by the imputation. Standing in the presence 
of the men who elected me, I pronounce these rumors to be wholly unfounded and false ; 
and for myself, I publicly declare that I have not, in connection with these proceedings, 
said, written, or done anything which I am unwilling should be known to the whole Leg- 
islature. This trust was your free gift, and when it came to my hands I received it un- 
stained by the slightest taint of bargain or intrigue. I acceptat, proudly, gratefully 
happy to be associated in the public service with your admirable delegation in the House 
of Representatives, and the able and true-hearted gentleman who will be my colleague 
in the Senate ; and with a loyal purpose to deserve your confidence. 

A breathless silence pervaded the immense auditory of Representa- 
tives and citizens, as they listened with the deepest attention to this 
masterly effort. With his eye beaming and his heart glowing with 
patriotic devotion to the Constitution and Union, Mr. Breckinridge 
closed with a soul-stirring appeal to the national and conservative men 
of all creeds to unite in the overthrow of the Republican organization, 
whose doctrines if carried out will sap the very foundations of our 
Government. He said : 

"The first duty of all who love their country is to overthrow the Republican party; and 
\vith this conviction I should be untrue to Kentucky, if I did not plead for the union of all 
opposed to that dangerous organization ; and to fall to pieces on questions of less magnitude 
than its defeat, is to surrender to its domination, and all the fatal consequences that may 


"There is another element at the North, not large, but noble and tme. It consists of the 
scattered cohorts of the old Whig party of men like Everett, Choate, and their associates 
whose conservatism, culture, and patriotism rebelled against the Republican alliance. Besides, 
there are many thousands in the Northern States who seldom attend the polls, and whose 
voices have not been heard amidst the clamors that surround them. To all these let us appeal, 
lot us solemnly demand a general revolt of the virtue and loyalty of the country against the 
pernicious principles that threaten its safety; and when all the forces are arrayed in their 
proper ranks, we shall be able to see what remains to hope or fear. 

"For myself I cherish a buoj^ant hope in the destiny of our common country. It is not well 
to doubt that the good Providence which has protected us in the past will take care of us in 
the future, and out of these commotions will lead us to an era of tranquillity and peace." 

The tried, trusty, and successful leader, in many a hard-fought 
battle, the Democracy at Baltimore, with a unanimity as flattering was just, selected Major Breckinridge as their standard-bearer in 
the approaching Presidential contest. Shrinking from no responsibili- 
ties which his country would impose upon him, he nobly accepts the post 
in his letter of acceptance of the nomination for the Presidency, which 
so forcibly elucidates the true principles upon which this Government 
should be administered. He truthfully says : 

"I have not sought or desired to be placed before the country for the office of President. 
When my name was presented to the Convention at Charleston, it was withdrawn by a friend 
in obedience to my wishes. My views had not changed when the Convention reassembled at 
Baltimore ; and when I heard of the differences which occurred there, my indisposition to be 
connected prominently with the canvass was confirmed and expressed to many friends. 

."Without discussing the occurrences which preceded the nominations, and which are, or 
soon will be, well understood by the country, I have only to say that I approved, as just and 
necessary to the preservation of the national organization and the sacred right of representa- 
tion, the act of the Convention over which you continued to preside, and thus approving it, 
and having resolved to sustain it, I feel that it does not become me to select the position I 
shall occupy, nor to shrink from the responsibilities of the post to which I have been assigned. 
Accordingly I accept the nomination from a sense of public duty, and, as I think, uninfluenced 
4n any degree by the allurements of ambition. 

"I avail myself of this occasion to say, that the confidence in my personal and public cjaar- 
acter, implied by the action of the Convention, will always be gratefully remembered; and it 
is but just also to my own feelings to express my gratification at the association of my name 
with that of my friend General Lane, a patriot and a soldier, whose great service in the field 
and in council entitle him to the gratitude and confidence of his countrymen. 

"The resolutions adopted by the Convention have my cordial approval. They are just to 
all parts of the Union, to all our citizens, native and naturalized, and they form a noble policy 
for any administration." 

It has been the purpose of this brief memoir of the life of Mr. Breck- 
inridge to present him as he is to exhibit his public character by his 
public acts. Left an orphan in his early years, with a mother and her 
little ones dependent upon him, he is found steadily and valiantly fronting 
adversity, and, almost entirely by his own exertions, laying the broad 
foundations of his future usefulness. All the elements of a great and 
noble character seem blended in him truth, generosity, prudence, judg- 
ment, intrepidity, a devoted love of his country. It would seem that he 
was the fruit of the generations of valor, patriotism, and learning from 
which he sprang. In the conflicts of war and peace he has never shrank 
from danger or responsibility ; but has intrepidly encountered them, and 
always triumphantly achieved his aim. Yet so considerate and just has 
he been to all, that he has rarely had, and never deserved to have, an 
enemy. To provide and care for those nearest and dearest to him, he 
retired to private life ; to fulfil his pledges to constituents, he declined 
honorable and high positions. He has resisted firmly the seductions of 
flattery ; and when grave and more experienced men yielded to the allure- 
ments of interest, or were influenced by the appliances of the hungry 


leeches of the public treasury, he was the censor, rebuking the departure 
from the principles of the fathers, and calling men back to the funda- 
mental doctrines of economy, sobriety, and frugality in the management 
of the affairs of the government. In the early prime of his manhood, -we 
find him invoking reverence for years and services, and holding up to re- 
buke and indignation the attempt to bring into disrespect with the people 
men that had dedicated to them long years of service. Is he not a char- 
acter fitted for this critical emergency of our history, when factions rend 
the land, and the two portions of our Confederacy are looking threateningly 
into each others' faces? On the one side, a fierce and bitter determination 
to impress an iron law upon all these States ; and on the other, an equal 
determination to resist unto the death this attempt at domination. 

There are indeed other parties and other candidates, but the contest 
must ultimately be between these two. Who can doubt the devotion of 
John C. Breckinridge to the Constitution and the union of these States? 
Who can doubt that he will administer the government, if elected President, 
with a firm and vigorous hand ; with a lofty patriotism ; with a purity and 
a forecast worthy the early days of the republic ? 

It is right that the young man who defended age and service should 
succeed one of the very eminent men he defended, and that he should do 
so at a period of life, when a mature judgment and a large experience are 
united with the highest physical strength and development. 

We will relate an incident which occurred during the last days of 
that distinguished man, Henry Clay, which, while it illustrates hii 
sagacity, the subsequent career of the youthful Breckinridge attests 
the truth of his prophetic remark. 

A gentleman who was constantly with Mr. Clay during his last 
illness, states that, upon going into his room one day, he found Mr. 
Breckinridge sitting by the bedside of the dying statesman, reading 
aloud to him. After Mr. Breckinridge left the room, Mr. Clay said: 
"That young man is serving now his first term in Congress; I per- 
ceive in him so much judgment and talent, so many of the elements 
of true statesmanship, that I clearly foresee he will yearly grow in 
the confidence and esteem of his countrymen, and eventually receive 
the highest honors it is in their power to bestow." 

The prediction, now partly accomplished, will doubtless he com- 
pletely fulfilled in November next, when the people speak their sen- 
timents at the ballot-box. 

In the glowing language of the eloquent and gifted Kentuckian, let our 






General Lane, tlie nominee of the 
National Democratic Convention at 
Baltimore for Vice President of the 
United States, is one of the most re- 
markable men of the age. His history 
is a fine illustration of the genius of 
our institutions, and demonstrates 
that the high places of honor and dis- 
tinction are accessible to all who pos- 
sess ability, energy and perseverance. 
General Lane descended from Kev- 
olutionary ancestors ; was born in the 
State of North Carolina, on the 14th 
of December, 1801. In 1804 his 
father emigrated with his family to 
Kentucky, where the hero and states- 
man was reared and educated. Having received a substantial edu- 
cation he removed to Indiana and settled on the hanks of the Ohio, 
in the county of Vandenburg, where, without the adventitious aid of 
fame, family, or fortune, he worked his way from an humble plowboy 
and flatboatman on the Mississippi to his present distinguished po- 

If any man can be styled a man of the people General Lane is truly 
that man. Through a period of more than a quarter of a century 
the people have evinced their admiration for the sterling honesty of 
his character, the strength of his intellect, and his pure and unselfish 
patriotism by clothing him with trusts of great responsibility and 
honor, which he has performed with signal ability and success. With 
a strong intellect and a mind eminently practical, with an honest, 
manly, and generous heart, its every pulsation beating in sympathy 
with the masses, he won the admiration and confidence of the people 
of Indiana to such a degree that, unsolicited, before he was twenty- 
one years of age, they elected him to the Legislature over their former 
representative, who was an able and experienced legislator and had 
"been Speaker of the House of Eepresentatives of the State. 

The strong and practical mind of the youthful legislator, taking a 
liberal, judicious, and statesmanlike view of all questions affecting 
State or national interests, which he enforced with a persuasive elo- 


quence, soon made him one of the master spirits of the Legislature, 
when the people were anxious to elevate him to still higher posts in 
the National Councils ; but having no heritage hut poverty and an 
honest name, with a large and increasing family to support and edu- 
cate, he had to forego higher honors and a wider field of usefulness to 
his people. He continued, however, to represent the people either in 
the House or the Senate of the State for nearly a quarter of a century. 

His name is indissolubly connected with some of the most impor- 
tant measures which developed the resources, advanced the prosperity, 
and improved the finances of the State, especially his able and suc- 
cessful efforts to preserve untarnished the public faith and to prevent 
the repudiation of the public debt, which was boldly advocated by 
. some of the strongest men in Indiana. 

When the Mexican war broke out General Lane was a member ot 
the State Senate, and when a requisition was made upon Indiana to 
furnish volunteers for the war, obedient to the call of patriotism, he 
resigned his place in the Senate and volunteered as a private for the 
war. When the companies assenfbled to organize and elect their 
officers, such was their unbounded confidence in Joseph Lane, that they 
elected him colonel of their regiment, although he had seen no mili- 
itary service either as a soldier or an officer. Before he could put his 
regiment in motion, President Polk illustrated his sagacity by sending 
him a commission as Brigadier General, a compliment as unexpected 
as it was unsolicited by General Lane. 

The opponents of the Administration and of the war, throughout 
the country, denounced and ridiculed the appointment, declaring that 
he might make a good general of the flatboatmen on the Mississippi 
river, but that the idea of Jo Lane, who had never commanded a com- 
pany in his life, taking command of a brigade in war was simply 
ridiculous ; that he would disgrace himself, his' State and the nation. 
Thus the plain, humble volunteer, without prestige or pretension, 
amidst the jeers and taunts of the Mexican sympathizers, set his brig- 
ade in motion for the theatre of the war, where he not only falsified 
all the predictions of his enemies and realized the most sanguine ex- 
pectations of his friends, but won a 'fame for daring, gallantry and 
successful generalship which has linked his name with the brightest 
history of his country's renown, while his generosity to the van- 
quished and solicitude for and care of the sick and disabled, made him 
universally popular with the soldiers and officers of the army who, 
scattered all over the Union, are burning to signalize their apprecia- 
tion of his worth, by crowning him with the highest of earthly honors. 

In less than three weeks after General Lane received his commis- 
sion, he was at the seat of war with all his troops. In communicat- 
ing his arrival to General Taylor, he wrote him thus : "The brigade 
I have the honor to command is generally in good health and fine 
spirits, anxious to engage in active service/' 

The indomitable energy, the self-sacrificing spirit, the sound judg- 
ment, and firm purpose which he displayed in the active service of 
civil life, were eminently conspicuous in all the stirring scenes of bat- 
tle, blood, and carnage, through which he passed, illustrated by a 


daring bravery and heroism, which placed him among the most dis- 
tinguished heroes of that memorable war. To recount the battles in 
which General Lane was engaged, the dangers to which he was ex- 
posed, the brave deeds he perlbrmed, the skill and judgment with 
which he planned his battles, and the unvarying success with which 
he fought them, would consume more space than we have to spare. 
Such was the celerity of his movements, the skill and stratagem of 
his plans, the boldness and rapidity of their execution, and the 
enthusiasm and courage with which he inspired his men, by his im- 
passioned appeals to their valor, as they visited the most fearful 
slaughter upon the enemy, that the name of Lane struck terror to the 
Mexican heart, and by common consent he was styled "the Marion of 
the Mexican War." Of all the battles fought in Mexico, the battle, 
of Buena Vista was the severest and most hotly contested, and one of 
the most remarkable in the annals of the world. There the American 
army, consisting of about five thousand, mostly raw militia, met 
twenty thousand of the chosen troops of Santa Anna, in deadly con- 
flict, and after a protracted struggle of two days, achieved a glorious 

In that battle General Lane performed a most important part. No 
officer contributed more by his gallantry and generalship to win the 
fortunes of the day. Upon the left wing of the American army 
which General Lane commanded, Santa Anna directed his most obsti- 
nate and deadly assaults. With but four hundred men General Lane 
repulsed a large bo4y of Mexicans, six thousand strong. While 
nothing could exceed the fearful array of the assailants, as they moved 
toward the little band of Lane, with their long line of infantry, pre- 
senting a continued sheet of fire, nothing could surpass the undaunted 
firmness and bravery with which Lane and his men maintained their 
position and poured their volleys of musketry into the advancing col- 
umns of the enemy, which made them break and fall back. Through- 
out the varying fortunes of that trying day, General Lane with 
his little band of heroes maintained his position and repulsed the 
enemy at every point. On the second day of the battle, Santa Anna, 
finding his strength defied and his most skillful manoeuvres defeated, 
as the day was drawing to a close, determined to make a most despe- 
rate effort to turn the tide of the battle in his favor. Collecting all 
his infantry, he made a charge on the Illinois and Kentucky regi- 
ments. Gallantly did those brave troops resist the onset, until seeing 
their leaders fall, and overpowered by numbers, they began to waver 
and fall back. At this critical moment the eagle eye of General Lane 
observed the movement, when he hastened with his brigade to the 
rescue in time to enable the retreating regiments to form and return 
to the contest and drive back with great loss the advancing column of 
the enemy. This was Santa Anna's last struggle. On that bloody 
and hotly contested field night soon closed over the sanguinary scene, 
and when the morning sun arose, it shone upon the battle-field, de- 
serted by Santa Anna, with his shattered legions, while the star- 
spangled banner waved in triumph over the American army. 

No officer went into the Mexican war with less pretension than 


General L:ine none came out of it with a brighter fame. The testi- 
mony of eve witnesses, historians, and official records attest the fact. 
The New Orleans Delta, of May 2, 1847, recorded the popular esti- 
mation in which General Lane's conduct was held in the "battle of 
Bucna A' 1st a as follows: 

"BRIGADIER GENERAL LANK: The bearing .of this gallant officer in the battle of Buena 
Vista, as described by persons who were present, was in the highest degree gallant, noble, and 
soldier-like. When his brigade, composed of the two Indiana regiments, was exposed to a 
murderous fire from the Mexican butteries on their flanks, and a front fire from a large body 
of the enemy's infantry when the grape and musket shot flew thick as hail through the lines 
of our volunteers, who began to waver before the fiery storm, their brave General could be 
seei 1 . fifty yards in advance of the line, waving his sword with an arm already shattered by a 
musket 1 >:'.!!. streaming with blood, and mounted on a noble charger, which was gradually 
sinking under the loss of blood from five distinct wounds. A brave sight indeed was this!" 

This brave man, whose check never blanched with* fear, or eye 
quailed amidst the hottest conflicts of battle, has a heart of tenderness 
which melts at human woe. His solicitude for and care of the sick, 
the wounded, and the dying, was manifested on many occasions. 
Numerous incidents and anecdotes are narrated, illustrating his kind- 
ness and tenderness, in relieving their sufferings and administering to 
their comfort in the hospitals and on the battle fields, which so en- 
deared him to his troops that it made him always invincible when 
their leader. On his return home, wherever he stopped citizens of all 
classes vied to do honor to the distinguished hero. Whilst in the city of 
Cincinnati, the guest of General Moore, an incident occurred illustra- 
tive of his native kindness and tenderness, and the gratitude of the 
recipient. A German citizen ushered himself into the presence of 
General Lane, amidst the guests in the parlor. He asked if General 
Lane was in. The German, with emotion, asked: "Do you know 
me, General?" "I do not," said the General. German : "Well, sir, 
I recollect and will thank you to the last day of my life. Do you re- 
member after the fight with the guerrillas at Manga de Clava, in which 
we routed the scoundrels so finely, you found a soldier dying by the 
way-side, exhausted by the heat of the sun and the exertions of the 
day, and dismounted from your horse and placed him on it, walking 
by his side until you reached the camp, where you did not rest till 
you saw him well taken care of?" The General replied, that he re- 
collected the circumstance very well. "Well," said the German, "I 
am the boy, and by that act of kindness you saved my live. I am 
here to thank you. How can I ever forget to cease to pray for you ? 
God bless you, you were the soldier's friend." 

In his own State of Indiana it was a perfect ovation wherever he went. 
The masses the hard sons of toil turned out from all the country, 
and from every hamlet and village, to welcome and do honor to 
the man of the people. He was feasted and toasted, and congratula- 
tory addresses were made to him in the name of the people, by the 
most distinguished men of the State. He bore all the honors and 
compliments showered upon him meekly, and with characteristic 
modesty, claimed for himself nothing more than having done his duty. 
In his emphatic language, he said : "To the volunteers under my 
command, I feel that the honor is justly due; without their aid I could 
have done nothing." 


After General Lane's brilliant exploits under General Taylor on 
the Rio Grande, he was transferred in September, 1847, to General 
Scott's line. We insert from a biographical sketch, published in the 
Democratic Rcvietv, of May, 1858, an exceedingly interesting history 
of his battle with Santa Anna at Huamantla, when he again defeated 
him, and his rapid and successful assault upon the remnant of his re- 
treating forces at Atlixo : 

"Gen. Lane having been transferred in the summer of 1847 to the 
line of Gen. Scott's operations, reached Vera Cruz in the early part of 
September. On the 20th of that month he set out towards the city of 
Mexico with a force of about two thousand five hundred men, con- 
sisting of one regiment of Indiana and one of Ohio volunteers, two 
battalions of-recruits, five small companies of volunteer horse, and two 
pieces of artillery. This force was subsequently augmented at Jalapa 
by a junction with Major Lally's column of one thousand men, and at 
Perote its strength was further increased by a company of mounted 
riflemen and two of volunteer infantry, 'besides two pieces of artillery. 
Several small guerrilla parties appeared at different times on the route 
and attacked the- advance and rear guards, but were quickly repulsed; 
and the column continued its advance unmolested along the great 
road leading through Puebla to the city of Mexico. 

"At this time Col. Childs, of the regular army, with a garrison of 
five hundred effective troops and one thousand eight hundred invalids, 
was besieged in Puebla by a large force of Mexicans commanded by 
Santa Anna in person. This general, notwithstanding his many de- 
feats, with a spirit unbroken by misfortune, and an energy that de- 
serves our highest admiration, however much we may reprobate the 
cause in which he was engaged, had collected the remnant of his 
beaten army, determined, if posible, to wrest Puebla from the grasp 
of the American General, Scott, and thus cut off his communications 
with the sea-coast. The gallant Childs well understood that the 
maintenance of his post was of the utmost importance to the success 
of the campaign. Every officer and soldier under his command 
seemed also to comprehend the immensity of the stake; and both 
officers and soldiers exhibited the loftiest heroism, and the most un- 
yielding fortitude, in meeting the dangers and enduring the fatigues 
and privations of a protracted siege. Aware that a strong column, 
under Gen. Lane, was marching "from Vera Cruz to their relief, the 
great object to be gained by the garrison was time. Santa Anna, also 
aware of Gen. Lane's approach, redoubled his exertions to carry the 
place by storm, superintending the operations of the troops in person, 
directing the guns to such parts of the defences as appeared most vul- 
nerable, and watching with intense anxiety the effect of every shot. 
Convinced at length by the obstinate resistance of the besieged, and 
the lessening distance between him and his advancing and dreaded 
foe, that he must abandon his position and encounter the " Marion of 
the War " in an open field, he silently and cautiously withdrew, and 
with the main body of his troops moved in the direction of Huamantla, 
intending, when Gen. Lane had passed that point, to make attack 
upon his rear, while another strong force should assail him at the same 


time from the direction of Puebla. Gen. Lane being informed of 
Santa Anna's movements, at once penetrated his designs. With the 
promptness of decision displayed in all his military operations, he di- 
vided his force, leaving the Ohio volunteers and a battalion of recruits, 
with ftvo iield guns, to guard the wagon trains. With the remainder 
of his column he marched, by a route diverging from the main road, 
directly towards Iluamantla. 

" On the morning of the 9th of October, the people of Iluamantla 
were startled arid dismayed to behold the formidable and glittering 
array spread out over the neighboring hills. White flags were im- 
mediately hung out in token of submission, and the place seemed to 
have surrendered without a blow from its panic-stricken inhabitants. 
But suddenly the advanced guard, under Capt. Walker, having en- 
tered the town, was assailed on every side by volleys of musketry. 
He immediately ordered a charge upon a body of 500 lancers, sta- 
tioned with two pieces of artillery in the Plaza. A furious and deadly 
combat ensued. Gen. Lane advancing at the head of his column en- 
countered the heavy reinforcement ordered up by Santa Anna, who 
had now arrived with his whole force. Soon the roar of battle was 
sounded through ever}' street, and street and Plaza were reddened 
with blood and covered with heaps of the slain. The Mexicans for a 
short time combated their assailants with the energy and fury of de- 
spair. But the steady and well-directed valor of the soldiers of the 
" Republic of the North" bore down all opposition. The Mexican 
ranks were broken and thrown into disorder; the order to retreat was 
given: and the American flag waved in triumph over the treacherous 
city of Iluamantla. QfiDCTOit Libra 

"This was the last field on which Santa Anna appeared in arms 
against the United States. This remarkable man, universally acknow- 
ledged to be an able and active, was never a successful commander. 
Whether this want of success is to be ascribed to the superior general- 
ship of the leaders and prowess of the troops opposed to him, or to 
his own instability of purpose in the very crisis of battle, when vigor 
and decision are most required, we will not stop to inquire. Having, 
during the progress of the war, collected several large armies, and led 
them to defeat, he had determined, with that which remained to him 
to make a last effort to retrieve his fortunes, and Iluamantla was se- 
lected as the Waterloo, where his waning star should shine out in 
cloudless effulgence, or sink to rise no more. If he did not encounter 
a Wellington on that field, he encountered one who, with Welling- 
ton's courage, united many of the higher qualities of a military com- 
mander. Perhaps he relied upon General Lane's want of experience ; 
but the courage and conduct of the latter at Buena Vista should have 
admonished him of the hoplessness of a contest in an open and equal 
field with such an officer, at the head of troops comparatively fresh, 
in high spirits, with full confidence in the skill and courage of their 
leader, and burning to rival the heroic deeds of their countrymen at 
Chapultepecand Cerro Gordo. Although Santa Anna from this time 
withdrew from an active participation in the contest between the bel- 
ligerent nations, the bloody drama in. which he had played so con- 


ispicuous a part was not yet closed. Much remained to be done to 
complete the conquest so auspiciously begun on the banks of the Rio 
Grande, and prosecuted with such vigor by Scott in the valley of 
Mexico. Many bloody fields were yet to be won ; many desperate 
bands of guerrillas yet to be defeated and dispersed, to render tl sub- 
jugation of the country complete. 

"Defeated at Huamantla. the remnant of the Mexican force fell back 
on Atlixo, where, on the 18th of October, a large body, with muni- 
tions and supplies, and two pieces of artillery, were collected, under 
the orders of Gen. Rea. Gen. Lane hearing of the concentration of 
the enemy's troops at that point, hastened with the small force at his 
disposal to attack them. After a long and fatiguing march on a hot 
and sultry day, he encountered the enemy strongly posted on a hill- 
side, within a mile and a half from Atlixo. The Mexicans made a 
show of desperate resistance, but being vigorously assaulted by the 
cavalry, closely followed by the entire column, they gave way and 
fled in confusion towards the town. It was not until after nightfall 
that the whole command of Gen. Lane reached Atlixo, having marched 
ten Spanish leagues since eleven o'clock in the forenoon. Disposing 
his troops in such manner as to command the approaches by the main 
roads, he opened a vigorous cannonade from a height which com- 
manded the town. The guerrillas, however, had fled, and the authori- 
ties having soon after surrendered the place into his hands, his wearied 
troops entered the town and sought the repose they so much needed." 

It is impossible, within the limited space allotted to this sketch, to 
present a detailed account of all Gen. Lane's military operations at 
this period. In authentic histories of the war and official documents 
filed in the archives of government, the reader will find the record of 
his achievements his long and toilsome marches by night and by day 
over a wild and rugged country, full of narrow defiles and dangerous 
passes ; his frequent surprises of the enemy ; his sudden incursions 
far away into remote valley and plain ; Jiis fierce combats and glo- 
rious victories. At Tlascalla, Matamoras, Galaxa, Tulaucingo, Zi- 
caultiplan, as at Huamantla and Atlixo, Mexican valor yielded to the 
force of his impetuous and well-directed assaults. On every field the 
ranks of the enemy went down before the thundering charge of his 
cavalry, the fierce onset of his resistless infantry. The fame of his 
achievements soon spread through Mexico, and the terror with which 
the enemy was inspired by his death-dealing blows and almost ubi- 
quitous presence, was equalled only by the unbounded confidence and 
enthusiasm infused into his followers by his gallant bearing, and the 
prestige of a name ever relied on by them as the sure guarantee 
of victory. For one quality as much as any other, perhaps even 
his dauntless courage, Gen. Lane was distinguished throughout the 
war humanity to the vanquished. His bright fame was unsullied, his 
escutcheon untarnished by a single act of wanton outrage or cruelty 
during the whole time he bore a commission in the American army. 
When the fig*ht was over, and the victory won, the field of carnage, 
where a short time before foeman met foeman in deadly conflict, pre- 
sented the spectacle of stern and swarthy warriors, imbued with the 


humane spirit of their leader, bending over the heaps of the dying and 
the dead, selecting now a friend, and now a foe, from whom the vital 
spark had not yet fled, staunching his wounds, and if the sufferer had 
not yet passed beyond the power of human aid to save, restoring him 
by their kind ministrations to life and health, family, home, and 
friends. An officer thus distinguished for courage and humanity ; un- 
yielding fortitude under the severest privations ; an originality and 
promptness in the formation of his plans, surpassed only by the bold- 
ness and rapidity of their execution ; a celerity of movement which 
annihilated time and distance ; with a power of endurance that defied 
hunger and thirst, heat and cold such an officer, never for a moment 
relaxing his exertions, and adding some new name to the list of the 
last of his conquests, could not fail to attract the attention and excite 
the admiration of the army, and win the approbation and applause of 
his countrymen in all parts of the United States. There was a tinge 
of romance in his exploits, which possessed an irresistible attraction, 
and captivated the imagination of all classes of admirers. But imagi- 
nation has had little to do with the final judgment which his country- 
men have pronounced upon his conduct. The parallel traced at the 
time between his deeds and character, and those of an illustrious hero 
of the Revolution, suggested to his countrymen a suitable way of tes- 
tifying their appreciation of his services and admiration of his character; 
and they have, with a unanimity which shows that the parallel is not 
altogether imaginary, bestowed upon him a title, prouder than any ever 
conferred by a patent of nobility from prince or potentate the title 
of "The Marion of the Mexican War." 

Before the close of the war the Government of the United States, 
appreciating the valuable services rendered by Gen. Lane, conferred 
on him the rank of Major General. This was so expressed in the 
order of the department, as a special mark of approbation for his " gal- 
lantry and skill displayed in numerous engagements with the enemy." 

" Peace has her victories, no less renowned than war.'' 

So successful and brilliant as the commander of armies, a few days 
after he returned to his peaceful home, crowned with laurels and the 
honors which an admiring people showered upon him, he was called 
to a different scene of duty, where he could exercise his sound judg- 
ment and practical knowledge in organizing and putting in practical 
operation a civil government on the shores of the Pacific for a remote 
people, who had been long neglected and uncared for. In August, 
1848, he received a commission as Governor of Oregon Territory, 
another compliment as unexpected as it was unsolicited from Mr. 
Polk. In less than one month from the time he returned to the bosom 
of his family from the stirring scenes of war, he was en route for the 
distant shores of the Pacific, with hardships, perils, and privations to 
encounter in crossing the Rocky mountains at that season of the year 
to reach his post of duty ; which required an energy, hardihood, and 
self-reliance to overcome which but few men possess. Col. Fremont, 
who followed him a few weeks afterwards, taking a different route 
across the mountains, lost almost his entire party amid the cold and 


snows in the gorges and defiles of the mountains, and nearly perished 

A narrative of the hardships and sufferings endured and the perils 
encountered by Governor Lane and his party in crossing the Rocky 
mountains, would fill a volume. We can now no more than quote 
from a speech made by Mr. Voorhies. of Indiana, last winter to the 
citizens of Washington, who had assembled to congratulate Gen. Lane 
upon the admission of Oregon into the Union, and himself into the 
United States Senate as one of her Senators. He said: 

" There is a history of events connected with the pioneer movements of Gen. Lane to Ore- 
gon, not generally known to the American people. On the llth September, 1848, at the 
foQt of the eastern slope of the Rocky mountains, with a commission from President Polk 
as Governor of Oregon Territory in his pocket, he, to whom you tender the honor of this 
demonstration, gave evidence to his country and to the world of a will and a courage in the 
discharge of duty surpassing that which Napoleon displayed in his immortal passage of the 
Alps. The great hero of Austerlitz and Marengo was told by his guide, that the route was 
barely passable, and the order came from the bold spirit to set forward immediately. Gen. 
Lane, in consultation with Col. Dougherty, a mountaineer of twenty years' experience, was 
told that the passage of the Rocky mountains at this season of the year, with certainty of 
spending the winter in their midst was a human impossibility. 'We will set forward in 
the morning,' was the reply of the American hero and patriot, who never knew fear in the 
achievement of public duty. He and his little band moved in the morning, and for five 
weary and desolate months were lost and buried amid the gorges and defiles and snows of 
the mountains. Fancy may paint, but the tongue cannot sketch even the faint outlines of 
that expedition. On the 3d of March, 1849, Gen. Lane reached the capital of Oregon, and 
before he slept, put the Territorial Government in operation, and started a communication 
to the President informing him of the fact." 

In the discharge of the duties of Governor of the Territory of Oregon, 
and ex-officio superintendent of Indian affairs, General Lane evinced 
the highest order of ability. His messages to the Territorial Legisla- 
ture abound in sound and practical views relative to the wants and 
interests of the Territory, and in the recommendation of wholesome 
and judicious measures, calculated to develope the resources and pro- 
mote the prosperity of the people. He found the Indian affairs in a 
most troubled condition the troops disbanded, the various tribes in 
a hostile attitude to the citizens, had committed depredations upon 
their propert}-, and murdered several families the murderers unpun- 
ished, and no restitution of stolen property. As soon as he put the 
government in operation, without troops he proceeded to the scenes 
of depredation, robbery, and murder, and by his superior address, 
tact and judgment, he. quelled all disturbances, had the murderers ar- 
rested and punished, and without war or bloodshed, accomplished 
what both had failed to effect. An incident occurred in Gov. Lane's 
"talk " with the Rogue River Indians, a warlike and predatory tribe, 
which illustrates his remarkable self-possession, coolness and judgment 
in imminent peril. He entered their country with twelve or fifteen 
men ; these Indians had fiercely rejected all attempts by the whites at 
conciliation. The safety of the border citizens required decided terms 
of war or peace. Gen. Lane chose the latter; with some difficulty he 
succeeded in assembling four or five hundred warriors in council. 
During the interview, one of his company recognized two horses stolen 
from him, in the possession of the Indians, and two-pistols in the belts 
of the two chiefs. The Governor demanded restitution of the prop- 
erty, which restored, he said, would evince their willingness to treat 


and preserve peace. The bead Chief ordered restitution, but the pos- 
sessors refused. The Governor then stepped forward and took one of 
the stolen pistols from the Indian's belt and gave it to the owner, and 
was about to take the other pistol, when the Indian who had it pre- 
sented his gun and raised the war whoop. Instantly four or five hun- 
dred guns were pointed at Gen. Lane and his small party. 

A single false step would have led to the most disastrous results, but 
Gen. Lane's coolness and promptness were equal to the crisis. He 
said, I have come here to make a treaty of peace, not to have a tight; 
and promptly stepping to the side of the principal chief, with his tirm 
eye fixed on him, pistol in hand, he told him, if a drop of blood of any 
of the whites was shed, it should be avenged by the destruction of the 
entire tribe. This well-timed move had the desired effect. The chief 
told his warriors to cease their demonstrations. The Governor then 
advanced among the foremost, took their arrows from their bows and 
returned them to their quivers, and uncocked their guns, and knocked 
the priming from their pans. 

Gen. Lane did not hold the office of Governor of Oregon more than 
about two years before he was superseded by President Taylor. 
"Whereupon the Legislature of Oregon passed resolutions expressive 
of their high sense of the energy, ability, and success which charac- 
' terized his administration as Governor of Oregon, and superintendent 
of Indian affairs, and their ''sincere regret that the President of the 
United States has deprived the Territory of Oregon of the future 
services of one so eminently useful, and whose usefulness was en- 
hanced by the unbounded confidence of the people over whom he was 

As soon as the intelligence of the death of the lamented Thurston, the 
faithful, able, and efficient delegate in Congress, reached Oregon, Gene- 
ral Lane was unanimously selected as his successor, and was elected by 
an almost unanimous vote of the people. 

Upon the eve of General Lane's departure from Oregon to the 
National Capitol, as their delegate to Congress, the people, without 
distinction of party, held a mass meeting to tender "him a public ex- 
pression of opinion in regard to his distinguished talents and services." 
Among other things they resolved, " that as friends of Gen. Joseph 
Lane, without distinction of party, we tender him our hearty and 
entire approbation of his acts as Governor of Oregon Territory," and 
that from "the ability, energy, fidelity and purity of purpose which 
have characterized all his public acts among us, it is but fitting that 
we express our approbation and admiration of his course," and "that 
General Lane came to us covered with military glory, and leaves us, 
upon the business of the Territory, clothed with our confidence and 
attachment." That confidence and attachment the people of Oregon 
have ever since manifested towards him, b} T continuing him as their 
delegate in Congress until the Territory was admitted"" as one of the 
States into the Union, when, in obedience to the unanimous voice of 
his party, he became one of the Senators from that State. 

All the responsible positions to which General Lane has been called, 
were unsolicited and unexpected by him, what but few public men can 


say, and he has filled them with signal ability and success. Endowed 
with a strong and practical mind, stored with the most useful know- 
ledge, acquired by extensive reading and accurate observation ; sound, 
liberal, and conservative in his views of the policy and principles of 
our Government, he combines personal traits of character, eminently 
calculated to win the popular heart; with a warm., generous, and manly 
spirit, with a kind, frank, and social disposition, with a demeanor so 
modest and unpretending that he excites no one's envy, he has acquired 
an influence and popularity which but few men attain. 

In Indiana, in the legislature and with the people, he was univer- 
sally popular, and one of the leading men of the State, and styled u her 
favorite son."' On the battle fields of Mexico the soldiers viewed him 
as invincible, and he was the pride of the officers of the army. In 
Oregon his name is a tower of strength. In the halls of Congress his 
popularity and influence are unsurpassed. Indeed, it was chiefly owing 
to his influence and exertions that the bill to admit Oregon into the 
Union passed the at the session 'before last. 

The passage of that bill was attended by great excitement. It was 
violently opposed by the ultra men, North and South. When the final 
vote was taken, a breathless silence reigned through the Hall and the 
crowded galleries, broken only by the emphatic answer of yea or nay, 
as the members answered to the call of the clerk for their vote; as the 
vote was being taken members were to be seen, in all parts of the hall, 
keeping count, and when Felix K. Zollicoffer responded to the last call, 
parties from all parts of the hall surrounded General Lane with their 
warm and hearty congratulations, which indicated the result, and when 
formally announced by the Speaker from the chair, round after round 
of applause arose from the members in the Hall, which was caught 
and repeated by the crowded galleries of anxious spectators, with 
waving of handkerchiefs by the ladies, and clapping of hands by the 
sterner sex, which showed that "he lives in the hearts of his country- 
men." When the news of the passage of the bill, and that a seat in 
the Senate was thereby secured to General Lane, spread through the 
city, there was a general rejoicing by the citizens, and the demonstra- 
tions of honor paid to General Lane at his lodgings that night were of 
the most enthusiastic character. A band of musicians serenaded him 
with the most delightful music; the people assembled in crowds; the 
strong men of the nation were there, and made congratulatory speeches 
from the portico of Brown's hotel, which were received with the enthu- 
siastic cheers of the assembled masses, which made the welkin ring. 
General Lane appeared, and responded to the unexpected compliment, 
in a chaste, appropriate, and eloquent' speech, then opened his rooms 
and his heart to receive his friends, and gave them the best cheer that 
could be provided at so short a notice. 

The fidelity, ability, and success with which General Lane has rep- 
resented the interests of his people in Congress, is attested by the 
fact that, from the time he was first elected, he has been re-elected 
their representative, with little or no opposition, for a period of more 
than eight years, until, by an almost unanimous vote, he was chosen 
one of the United States Senators, by the legislature, upon the adrnis- 


sion of Oregon into the Union, having received forty-five of the fifty 
votes cast. 

Short as has been his service in the Senate, he has more than sus- 
tained the reputation he acquired in other spheres of public duty. His 
remarks in the Senate, on the 19th December last, on the territorial 
question, did honor to his head and his heart. They breathed the 
spirit of a patriot and the sentiments of a statesman. He enunciated 
the true principles of the Constitution in a concise, but clear and forci- 
ble exposition of the heresy of squatter sovereignty, and the duty and 
importance of maintaining the equality of the States, in all their con- 
stitutional rights in the territories and elsewhere, in order to preserve 
"the Constitution and the Union, the richest political blessings which 
Heaven has bestowed upon any nation." 

To preserve the Constitution, and to perpetuate the Union, the 
equality of the States must le Maintained, was the sentiment he ex- 
pressed and enforced, with such strong and practical arguments as will 
carry conviction of their truth to the mind of every patriot who reads 
them. In the language of a distinguished Senator, who arose imme- 
diately after General Lane concluded his speech, to express the deep 
gratification he felt at its delivery, it contained more conservatism, 
more of genuine nationality, more of that broad sentiment which covers 
this whole country, than any speech which had been pronounced in the 
Senate during that session; and it might not be extravagant to add, 
during half a-dozen sessions. 

No man has a purer or a brighter record as a citizen, a patriot, or a 
stateman, than General Lane. The prudence, wisdom, firmness, and 
ability, which he has displayed in all the responsible trusts committed 
to him, whether as the commander of armies in battle, or as a legis- 
lator in the State or national councils, illustrate his fitness for the 
second office in the gift of the nation, for which he has been unani- 
mously nominated. 

In sunshine and in storm he has been true to Democratic principles, 
as the needle to the pole. 

His sound national views of governmental policy, with a patriotism 
broad enough to embrace with equal warmth his whole country, com- 
mend him to national, conservative men, in every quarter of the Union. 

But few public men have ever lived so strongly entrenched in the 
affections of the people as General Lane. From the toiling masses he 
has risen to his high position by the force of his intellect, and the en- 
ergy and purity of his character. With no vanity to grow into arro- 
gance from success, he is as simple and unpretending in his manners 
as a child, endowed with some of the noblest attributes that can dignify 
man brave, generous, kind, and true. While he commands the admi- 
ration, he wins the warmest friendship, alike of the high and the low, 
the rich and the poor. 

Pages might be written, giving the details of many noble, brave, and 
generous deeds, which have characterized his eventful life, which are 
the secret of his success, and the reason of his strength with the people, 
who are always prompt to appreciate and reward merit. 

In conclusion, we will relate only one incident which occurred after 


the suppression of hostilities by the Kogue river Indians, in soi'.thern 
Oregon, in the spring of 1853, an incident which illustrates his steiling; 
patriotism, and the kindness and generosity of his heart, which stamps 
him as one of the noblest of nature's noblemen. 

As soon as General Lane heard of the outbreak he left his borne, an 
repaired to the scene of hostilities as a volunteer, and placed himsel 
under the command of Captain Alden, of the 4th infantry, Unite 
States army. The regular troops not being sufficient to quell the di 
turbance, volunteers were called for. Governor Curry, learning th 
General Lane had proceeded to the scene of action, forwarded him, a 
once, a commission of Brigadier General. The hostilities were promptl 
suppressed by a short but decisive battle at Table Rock, on the part o 
the regulars and volunteers, with the Indians, in which General Lan 
was severely wounded in the. right shoulder; when, through his grea 
influence with the Indians, a treaty of peace was made with them. A 
the ensuing session of Congress a law was enacted to pay the volunteer 
for their services. Major Alvord, the United States paymaster, pai 
the troops in full, with the exception of General Lane, who did nc 
appear to claim the amount due him. He then wrote to him that ther 
were due for his services about four hundred dollars. General Lan 
replied, that he had offered his services, without intending to receiv 
any compensation, simply because he deemed it his duty, whenever ; 
war broke out in his country, to contribute his aid in suppressing it 
desiring no other reward than the consciousness of having done hi 
duty in aiding to protect the homes and the firesides of his people f'rot 
the assaults of the enemy, and directed the amount due him to be pai 
for the benefit of two orphan boys, the only survivors of the War 
family, who were most cruelly murdered by the hostile Indians. The 
were the children of a large lamily of emigrants, whom General La 
had never seen, but whose active sympathies were deeply touched b 
the cruel butchery of the entire family, except these two little boy 
saved from the slaughter, but left without a home to shelter them, o 
a friendly hand to relieve them in their deep dist$*ess and destitution. 

The life of General Lane will stand out prominently in history a 
that of a. remarkable man, illustrating the fact that the humblest indi 
vidual may, under our free and liberal institutions, attain the highes 
point of distinction, by industry, energy, and.^ perseverance, and wil 
furnish an example to incite ardent and ambitious minds to emula 
his vh tiles, cultivate their noblest faculties, with the confident a 
surance of the most triumphant success.