EDITED BY John Ely Briggs
Copyright 1934 by the State Historical Society of Iowa
(Transcribed by Debbie Clough Gerischer)
The "Grand Closing Concert" of the Iowa State Normal Academy of Music was
always an important occasion in Iowa City. During the five sessions that the
Academy flourished from 1867 to 1871, it afforded unique social diversion for
the young people who attended, as well as excellent musical training. But the
public concert at the end of the six-weeks term was the climax upon which the
efforts of the Academy and the interest of the community were concentrated, The
Grand Concert on September 16, 1870, was no exception.
Long before the hour for the entertainment to begin, people were crowding
into Market Hall on the southeast corner of Dubuque Street and Iowa Avenue.
Their punctuality was generously rewarded. A varied program of choral
selections, piano and violin solos, arias, cavatina, and fantasias was concluded
with a rollicking "Laughing Trio" which sent the audience home in the best of
spirits though the concert had lasted nearly three hours. But the principal
features of the long recital was Mozart's Twelfth Mass. "finely performed by a
splendid chorus" of more than seventy voices. The most prominent parts of the
oratorio were sung by instructions in the Academy, but two students - Miss Ida
M. Kimball and Miss Hattie Glenn- were also honored with solo assignments.
In defiance of orders from Professor H. S. Perkins, head of the Academy, not
to eat just before the concert, Hattie Glenn insisted on having her supper,
Moreover, she wore a tight basque waist with bone stays and a corset similarly
reinforced, contrary to the professor's injunctions. Nevertheless she seems to
have acquitted herself with a very creditable performance. Indeed, she confirmed
local opinion that with good training and experience she would some day be a
To the boys and girls living in Iowa City sixty-five years ago. Harriet Hope
Glenn was a jolly, carefree girl who participated in the normal exploits of
youth. In her earlier years she had gone wading in Ralston Creek down by the
railroad track near the old first ward schoolhouse. Later she joined her
schoolmates in games of croquet on the University campus and sometimes went
boating on the Iowa River with the University boys. On one occasion, during
music academy days, while riding her sorrel pony named Peanuts, she tore a big
hole in her dress. And in that plight she appeared at the Academy quite
Hattie Glenn, as she was generally known, lived in Glenn Row, a group of
two-story apartment houses owned by her father. Glenn Row, painted white and
adorned with green shutters, was on the east side of Linn Street between
Burlington and Court streets., But Mr, Glenn was not primarily a realtor. He had
a hardware store on the northeast corner of Clinton and Washington streets.
Hattie was the second of four children: Adelaide, Harriet Hope, Carrie, and
Robert. "They were a lovely, hospitable family - lively and full of fun. All of
the children, with the exception of Carrie, were musically inclined. Both Addie
and Hattie sang in the choir of the Presbyterian Church," when A. B. Cree was
director. Hattie "was tall, rather plump, had light brown hair and rather small
gray eyes", writes Mrs. Harriet A. Reno, a friend of schoolgirl days. "She was
vivacious in manner and quite stunning in appearance." When she was "a very
young girl she had a new brown suit and it was her desire to have a pair of
brown kid gloves to match that suit. At that time kid gloves were luxuries but I
remember my joy in being able to give her a pair to match that wonderful suit
and her joy in receiving them."
H. S. Perkins of the Music Academy lived in a Glenn Row apartment. That is
how he happened to hear Hattie practicing her music lessons. Convinced that she
had a \voice worth developing, he invited her to enroll in his school. Her local
success was so encouraging that her father was readily persuaded to send her
first to Chicago for special instruction, then to Boston, and eventually abroad.
"The winter of 1875 found her in Paris, a hard working student who had to
succeed." Thence she went to Italy "where a new tongue and its vocalization must
be acquired." She was introduced to Wartel by Marie Roze in 1875, with whom she
studied about a year, as she did also with Mme. Viardot-Garica. Then she went to
Milan and finished with Lamperti.
In Europe, it is said, she thought she would rather be a pianist because she
did not want to spend the time learning to sing. So she took piano lessons,
until the instructor rapped her on the knuckles and she began to cry so hard she
could not see to play. Her first impulse was to return home, but she finally
decided to remain in Europe and continue her vocal lessons.
Hope Glenn as she was known in professional circles, made her operatic debut,
her first appearance, "beyond the guidance of teacher's hand", in Malta in 1879
when she sang as Pierotto in Linda. After singing in Milan, Florence, Paris,
London, Dublin and Edinburgh, she was chosen by Christine Nilsson, the Swedish
opera singer, to tour with her as her principal support in England and America.
"She sang in 1882 with Mme. Nilsson in the principal cities between the two
oceans, meeting her family for the first time in Pittsburgh, there crowning
laurel of fame with a father's blessing and the outpouring of a mother's
It was in Pittsburgh that her family surprised her by their presence. As soon
as she stepped on the stage she saw them lining the front seats and the "effect
so unnerved her that for the first time in her life she nearly collapsed with
In the fall of 1883 she returned to the United States and on this tour sang
in Iowa City. Most popular in her repertoire were "The Last Dream". "You'd
Better Ask Me", and the Scottish ballad "Caller Herrin". After several encores,
to favor the enthusiastic approbation of her audience, she placed "herself in
comparison with the great Nilsson" in "Swanee River". "So sweet, so touching is
the delicate pathos of the song", wrote one who heard her, "that we imperiously
demand that again her labor shall be our pleasure." The Iowa City Republican
observed that the character of the audience which greeted her return was best
expressed by a thoughtful auditor who said, "if by some chance the Opera House
and those who were in it last night had suddenly been blotted out, what would
have remained of Iowa City?"
After the concert an informal reception was held at the Glenn home. The house
was crowded, yet "without prompting or mistake" she recognized her old friends.
For each there was a "cordial word of welcome and a clasp of the hand" from
their "Queen of Song". Tom Jones was there - he who in their younger days in
Iowa City had been one of a serenading quartet with George Smith, Hattie, and
her sister Addie. Tom, who had also studied in Europe, was an ever-ready help in
time of trouble. He deftly located mislaid articles as Hope fluttered about
asking "Tom, where's this?" and "Tom, where's that?" with the excitable French
mannerisms she had acquired while abroad.
From Iowa City Miss Glenn went to New York City where she sang with Madame
Nilsson. Of the appearance there the New York Tribune commented. "The
performances of Italian opera last night consisted of a repetition of 'Mignon'
at the Metropolitan Opera House, and of 'La Sonnambula' at the Academy of Music.
The largest and most brilliant audience was at the first-mentioned place where
Madame Nilsson gave her admired impersonation of the stunted character which
passes as Goethe's Mignon." Of Hope Glenn a New York correspondent said, "Her
voice is one of the richest and sweetest of contraltos; so full of pathos one of
our critics has rightfully spoken of it as a 'tearful voice.' "
In England she appeared chiefly in concerts and oratorios. When she sang in
The Messiah at the Festival in Birmingham, the London Times declared that the
week "has been, in every way, a brilliant success, and the town has been
literally packed with people. The solos of Hope Glenn were rendered in grand
style. She is our favorite festival singer."
Again the New York correspondent wrote, "Another lady is stirring the very
souls of the music-lovers of London. . . During the fashionable season of
London, Hope Glenn was the darling of London's most aristocratic and refined
circles. A prevailing luxurious elegance demands that the hostess provide the
very best of musical attractions at her evening entertainment, and Miss Glenn
became the charm of many a noble and notable gathering.
Hope Glenn married Richard Augustine Heard, son of one of Boston's oldest
families, at a ceremony held at St. James Place in London. She was given in
marriage by Arthur Seymour Sullivan, who, with his friend Gilbert, the
librettist, produced the famous Gilbert and Sullivan light operas.
Her marriage, however, did not prove to be happy. Deserted after some years,
she was thrown upon her own resources for support. Her concert days were over.
In middle age she began maintaining herself by teaching music.
"Addie told me", said a friend, "that Hope's separation from her husband
seemed to have killed her aspiration for the career she had planned. This was,
of course, a great disappointment to all her family who had done so much to aid
her preparation for that career."
From her home in London. Hope occasionally came to the United States to visit
her sisters and brother who for the sake of their father's health had moved to
Atlanta, Georgia. There Adelaide and Carrie had purchased a row of apartment
houses which they rented to single men only. The called them the "Pickwick
Apartments" after the Pickwick Club in Dickens's novel. But when the World War
began, many of the Pickwickians enlisted and left the apartments vacant. Then
married soldiers, seeking a place for their wives, applied at the Glenn
apartments. And so the make seclusion was invaded. Presently a floor was devoted
to married couples, and with them came the inevitable babies. The Pickwick
Apartments became a anomaly.
At Atlanta, Hope Glenn liked to sit under the orange trees and pick the
blossoms, which she would wind in wreathes about her head, and eat the fruit
till she was satisfied. But eventually she always returned to London where her
sister sent her money for support, since she was no longer singing.
After the death of their mother, Addie and Carrie took one of the Pickwick
Apartments. There Carrie died in 1921, and Addie two years later. The estate was
divided between Hope and her brother in Oakland, California
Hope Glenn witnessed a musical revolution during her lifetime. Her career
went back to the days when queens sought musicians' favor and when Gilbert and
Sullivan were crowding the theater with their operas; and forward to the time of
jazz tunes over the radio.
Indians at Gray's Ford
Ninety-five years ago my grandfather, Ebenezer A. Gray, left Ohio with his
wife and three small children and came to Cedar County, Iowa. They came by boat
down the Ohio River and then up the Mississippi River to Muscatine, which at
that time was called Bloomington. There grandfather bought a covered wagon and a
yoke of oxen. With this outfit they set out across country in a northerly
direction looking for a place to settle. The Cedar Valley seemed most attractive
and there they decided to make their home. In the timber along the Cedar River
near a shallow place where the stream could be forded they blazed their claim.
The place, a few miles up the river from Rochester, is still known as Gray's
Grandfather immediately set about building a log cabin. The country was very
new and wild. There were only a few white settlers for miles around. A band of
Sauk and Fox Indians, however, had a camp nearby, and it was not long before a
big brave came to call upon the new neighbors.
The Gray family was much pleased with this friendly red man and a warm
friendship sprang up between the Indians in that vicinity and the Gray family.
The ties of friendship were never broken by either the Indians or the Grays.
Even now the Gray grandchildren feel kindly toward the red men; indeed, we feel
a deep sense of gratitude toward the Indians of long ago, for they welcomed the
Gray family and did all they could to make their life pleasant and comfortable.
During the first months, the Indians came often to the Gray cabin and soon
the white family learned to speak the Indian language, Some of them helped to
clear a little patch to ground and in many ways helped the newcomers. In return
for this kindness grandfather made guns for them, for he was gunsmith by trade.
Naturally he had brought his tools and set up a little shop.
Grandmother was an energetic, thrifty. Welsh woman, and looked well to the
ways of her household. She had white flour and made things in a culinary way
that pleased the Indian's palate. The little Indian girls often came to play
with my aunt. You know how hungry children get while playing. How they did enjoy
the bread and butter and little cakes which grandmother gave them to eat.
Once some squaws brought some maple sugar which they wanted to trade for
white flour. On looking at the sugar, grandmother saw it was dirty and said she
did not want it, but she got some of her own maple sugar and explained to them
how she made it, Then she directed them to make theirs the same way and she
would trade. They were pleased and showed by all their signs and guttural
language that they would do it.
In about three weeks a half dozen ponies were led up to the cabin and to
grandmother's surprise they were all laden with maple sugar. This sounds big,
but the Indians had done exactly as they were told. Grandmother had taught them
to hollow out little troughs of basswood in which to mold sugar. They had done
so, but each two quarts or thereabouts was put in a separate wooden trough all
of its own , so there were many troughs and some sugar. Needless to say
grandmother took the sugar and not only gave them the white flour but took two
young squaws into the cabin and taught then to make a kid of white bread.
At another time the Indians wished to borrow a long-range gun. They said a
large gray wolf was bothering their pony colts and the wolf was so cunning and
swift their bows and arrows could not reach it. Grandfather said they could have
the gun if they would bring him the wolf hide. To this they readily consented
and went off with the gun. In four day two Indians rode up, proudly displayed a
huge gray wolf pelt, and handed back the gun, but they wanted to keep the hide
and tan it for grandmother. In a reasonable time the hide was tanned and brought
back to her.
Sometime after this the Indians near Fort Des Moines wanted grandfather to
stay all winter with them and fix their guns. He told them it was impossible for
there would be no one to look after his family. Finally, however, after much
talk, he said he would go if the Indian chief would promise to see that no harm
came to his wife and children. But the Indian refused to assume that
responsibility because the Sioux were getting quarrelsome. If they made war, the
Sauks and Foxes would have to run, for the Sioux had many braves. After much
controversy, however, it was agreed that grandfather would go and if the Sioux
made warm the Sauk and Fox Indians were to take grandmother and the children
with them in their fight. They would be much safer with friendly Indians than
left in the warpath of a hostile tribe. But the war parties of the Sioux did not
pass that way.
The Gray cabin had a low upper story reached by a ladder. On retiring at
night grandmother would draw the ladder up and close the trap-door. Never once
were they disturbed from their peaceful slumbers. Quite often on lifting the
trap-door early in the morning and peering down a very strange sight would
confront her. There, lying on the wolf hide before the log fireplace, would be
three or four braves rolled up in their blankets and sound asleep. She would
come down and shake the sleepy Indians until they sat up. They were waiting for
grandmother's approval of the fine young deer they had brought all dressed and
ready to cook. Often she gave them their breakfast and then they would silently
slip out and disappear in the woods. Such huge piles of wood they left her, and
such choice gifts of wild game - deer, bear, pheasants, turkey, and quail - more
than the family could use.
One morning a strange Indian dashed up to the cabin and in sign language made
it known to grandfather that he desired to borrow a long steel knife. A member
of his tribe had a thorn in his hand and they were unable to get it out. The
Indian told grandfather he was a Sioux ad had traveled all night to get there.
The knife was brought out and the Indian was instructed how to use it. Then
grandmother gave him some clean cotton cloth and told him how to bind up the
wound. Grandfather invited the Indian to leave his jaded pony and take one of
the Gray ponies, which he was glad to do. He promised to return the knife and
the pony when the moon was "so high" - making a sign and pointing to the sky.
Yes, he brought them back on time, and told grandfather about the wonderful
medicine in the knife and clean cotton bandage.
Years passed. The white settlers came a occupied most of the land. The
Indians were driven farther and farther west. At last none was left in Iowa,
except some who returned to buy a few acres of their own along the Iowa River in
When I was about ten years old we were visiting at grandmother's and one
morning we saw father hurrying toward the house. He told us that a band of
Indians had come down the river to pay a visit to Gray's Ford. Great excitement
prevailed in the Gray household then.
After noon we all went to the river, about a half mile away. There were only
two of the older Indians along with them, a man and a woman. They had come to
visit with grandfather and grandmother once more. Many of the younger ones had
never been to Gray's Ford and took a great deal of interest in exploring the
We children were greatly interested in watching an Indian mother swing up a
hammock made of a blanket. Then she lay her tiny papoose in and sang it to
sleep, very much as a white mother does. We arrived in time to watch them fix
their camp fire and cook their dinner.
After their meal was over they all assembled in a pow-wow group, with the
Gray family included. The Indians talked broken English and made many signs to
which our folks nodded their heads and tried to make them understand that we
were glad of their visit to Gray's Ford, and hoped they would enjoy their stay.
I was brought forward and told to count the Indians, which I did in their
language. They all began to smile. Some even laughed out loud. They were much
pleased, for they knew grandfather still remembered them because he had taught
his grandchildren to count.
ADA GRAY SMITH
ACROSS THE MISSISSIPPI
Crossing the Mississippi River was a serious problem for he pioneer who came
to Iowa before bridges spanned the steam. Railroads and highways alike ended
abruptly on the east bank. Some of those first settler, like one of our early
Governors, probably recalled the ten-familiar hymn:
Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood
Stand dressed in living green:
So to the Jews old Canaan stood
While Jordan rolled between.
But the Mississippi was so much wider than the Jordan!
Thousands of immigrants who came before the seventies entered the promised
land of Iowa by means of ferries. The steamboat companies and ferrymen were
bitterly opposed to the construction of bridges across the Father of Waters The
company that built the Rock Island Railroad bridge at Davenport was involved in
litigation for several years. And those test cases were all the more notable on
account of the participation of Abraham Lincoln s counsel and dramatic because
of the wreck of the Effie Afton. But scarcely less determined was the opposition
to bridging the river between Dunleith (East Dubuque) and Dubuque. The railed
bridge was opened for traffic in December, 1868.
W. K. Ackerman, an early president of the Illinois Central Railroad,
referring to the land grant in aid of the construction of the road, remarked
that the provision extending the line to Dubuque was singular in as much "it
assumed that a bridge was to be constructed across he Mississippi from Dunleith
to Dubuque . . . . But made no requirement as to is construction"
In point of fat, the bridge was not built until thirteen years after the
railroad reached the Mississippi. In 1868, after persistent opposition, it was
built upon the authority of a separate charter by the Dubuque and Dunleith
Bridge Company. In the meantime the Dubuque and Sioux City Railroad been
constructed westward., In 1867 it extended as far as Iowa Falls and this track
was leased by the Illinois Central for twenty years. In the absence of a bridge
to connect the two lines ferry served for transportation in open weather, the
ice for the rest of the year.
Nearly two years before the bridge was open, my mother on her way to Iowa
encountered the inconvenience and danger of crossing the river just as the ice
was going out. Many of the immigrants who came to Dubuque by rail between 1855
and the late sixties must have had similar experiences.
Father, Reverend L. N. Call, was one of the ministers whom the home
missionary societies of various denominations were sending out to care for the
spiritual welfare of the settlers pouring into this region after the Civil War.
He had been directed to Franklin County where there were no church buildings,
no railroads, and only sketchy wagon roads. There he arrived in February, 1867,
and mother followed with her four children, the oldest not quite eleven, early
Having bought her tickets from Chicago to Ackley, the nearest point to
Hampton which was her destination, she had no thought of any difficulty until,
as the train rolled on toward Iowa, she heard the conductor express misgivings
as to whether the ice would hold if the mist turned to rain. His fears were
justified. When the passengers alighted at Dunleith, they were told by local
officials that the ice was cracking, growing unsafe, and no more teams could
cross. In fact the ice had already broken away from the Iowa side and flatboats
were carrying the latest travellers across the thirty or forty feet of water.
Poor mother! With four tired children and not too much money! She saw some
men carrying their bags, walking toward the river. At once she asked where they
were going and was told that they intended to walk across, but that it was a
very risky thing to do. Mother hesitated just a moment. She knew that father
would be waiting for her at Ackley; but should she take the risk? Then she
inquired, "How long do you suppose it will be before the ferry could run?"
"No one knows. If it freezes up there will be ice; if it rains to-night
there will be water."
Mother decided to cross with the others. "If some one can be found to carry
the big bag," she declared, "the children will help me and I will carry the
At first the agent would not hear of it, wouldn't have anything to do with
it. But mother was so brave and determined that finally a man went along to
help and the little procession started across the ice, though against the
protests of the officials. Mother carried Myra, my brother David was loaded
with bags, my sister Leona with the big lunch basket, and I was told, to "try to
I can see yet, as in a dream, that great expanse of gray ice. Even then it
was cracking, and as we went on there was a low grinding sound, which was even
more alarming, mother said afterward, though I noticed none of this. I do
remember being worried because the guide kept calling, "String out! String
out!" and I didn't know how to string out!
Others were crossing at the same time and we were constantly warned not to
crowd together or we would break through. mother who, with all her burdens, was
clipping along with the rest would call out cheering and encouraging me to come
along. I don't think she had realized how wide the river was, how far the
The sounds of the cracking ice grew more ominous; all quickened their pace,
walking a slightly as possible. Then one of the men whose kindness we never
forgot, noticing that I was obviously unequal to the occasion, said that if one
of the others would take his small bag, he would carry the little girl. Oh what
a relief to mother! And what an ordeal for me, for my benefactor was wearing
one of the great travelling shawls not uncommon in those days (I remember
reading that Lincoln sometimes wore one), and the large pin that held it jabbed
me cruelly as we hurried along.
After what seemed like a very long time we reached the end of the ice and,
walking tremblingly along the boards laid down to protect the crumbling edges,
one after another we stepped into the boat. There's the dim memory of the
confusion, the loud commands, the swift black water crumbling the ice away; then
a sudden shouting and they said a man, a few rods back, had broken through and
was clinging desperately while others were hurrying with long boards to shove
along the ice toward him.
Much of this I heard afterward till I seem to remember some of these things
myself. But at the time I was cold and greatly disturbed because the dirty
water in the bottom of the boat was spoiling my new shoes.
As one by one we reached the muddy bank, just for one moment mother gathered
us to her with feelings that can be imagined, then hurried us away to the train
that was waiting to carry us to our new home.
That night the ice went out.
Once in after years, when we recalled that day, as we did many times, my
brother (then the professor of Greek at the University of Iowa) told what dismay
filled his boyish heart as he saw mother's determinedly-cheerful face growing
pale as we hurried across that treacherous ice, and he asked her what she was
thinking during that anxious hour. Mother waited a minute, then said, "I was
thinking of your father and all he had been writing about you children growing
up in Iowa."
Dear mother! She couldn't know how the lives of her family were to be bound
up for years to come with the development of this new State and its
institutions; what pride they would feel in its beauty and fertility and
literacy; how deeply interested they would be in helping to maintain civic,
educational, and moral standards that would make Iowa, indeed, that "better
country' of which pioneers like father and mother dreamed.
MRS. FRANCIS E. WHITLEY
HARLAN'S DEFENSE OF GRANT
Few statesmen have served longer terms or rendered more renowned
service in the United States Senate than Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, and
few Senators have been more eloquent or more influential than Carl Schurz of
Missouri. On one notable occasion, however, both Sumner and Schurz bowed in
defeat before the invincible arguments of Senator James Harlan of Iowa. It was
on the occasion of Harlan's defense of President Ulysses S. Grant.
When Grant became President he was confronted with the question
of annexing the Dominican Republic to the United States. His predecessor had
recommended it, but a congressional resolution of annexation had been defeated.
President Grant was favorably disposed to the project but before officially
adopting that policy he sent Orville E. Babcock as his confidential agent to the
island to make further investigations and to report to the administration.
Babcock, intent upon acquiring the new territory, negotiated a treaty of
annexation. He reported that conditions in the island were deplorable and that
either annexation or intervention by the United States was inevitable. Grant
sent the treaty to the Senate with an urgent request for consent to
ratification. Meanwhile he instructed naval officers to maintain peace in Santo
Domingo and if necessary to repel any invasion by a foreign power.
In the Senate, however, the treaty met vigorous opposition by a
powerful political faction. Hoping to secure consideration of annexation on its
merits, he called upon Senator Sumner, Chairman of the Committee on Foreign
Relations, and asked him to support the treaty. Sumner, apparently unprepared
for such a direct pledge, replied that he was an administration man and would
give the question his "careful and candid consideration". The President
understood this equivocal statement to mean that the Senator would work for
annexation. When the treaty came up for adoption, however, Sumner led the fight
against it, and the treaty was decisively rejected.
But Grant would not let the matter rest. He was convinced that
annexation would rescue the island from political anarchy, lead to the abolition
of slavery in the West Indies, promote American trade, and confirm the Monroe
Doctrine. In his annual message to Congress in December, 1870, he proposed that
a competent commission be appointed to investigate the advisability of acquiring
Santo Domingo, and if the report were favorable he suggested that the country
be annexed by a joint resolution of Congress. Three remarkably able
commissioners were appointed. Thus President Grant sought vindication.
Sumner knew it and flew into a rage. His opposition to the
methods of conducting relations with the Dominicans and his resentment at being
denied spokesmanship in foreign affairs, combined with his natural intolerance,
had developed into an obsession. Up to this time he had not attacked the
President in open debate, but on December 21, 1870, he took the floor to vent
his spleen against the administration in a speech he chose to call "Naboth's
Vineyard". "The resolution commits Congress to a dance of blood", he declared.
In a "bitter and excited" manner he denounced the President's imperialistic
policy in such intemperate language that his best friends were grieved.
When the new Congress was organized in March, 1871, Sumner was
deposed from his chairmanship of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. Thenceforth
he assailed the administration at every opportunity and his vehement
denunciation inspired criticism by others. On March 28th, in a carefully
prepared speech, Senator Sumner again attacked Grant for his alleged
intervention in Santo Domingo and proposed official censure. "On evidence now
before the Senate", he said, "it is plain that the Navy of the United States
acting under orders from Washington has been engaged in measures of violence and
of belligerent intervention, being war, without the authority of Congress."
"It is difficult", he continued, "to see how we can condemn with
proper whole-hearted reprobation our own domestic Ku Klux with its fearful
outrages while the President puts himself at the head of a powerful and costly
Ku Klux operating abroad in defiance of international law and the Constitution
of the United States." Such a case, he declared, could not pass by without
inquiry. "It is too grave for silence." Accordingly, for the sake of the Navy.
"which has been the agent", for the sake of the administration, "under which
the Navy acted", for the sake of republican institutions, "which suffer when the
great Republic makes itself a pattern of violence", and for the sake of the
Republican party, "which cannot afford to become responsible for such conduct",
the distinguished Senator from Massachusetts contended that the case should be
examined on the facts and the law, and in the light of precedent "so far as
precedent holds the torch".
Thereupon, he contended with great fervor that the President had
grossly erred in sending ships into a foreign port without authorization by
Congress. So strong were the arguments presented that a New York newspaper
declared "Mr. Sumner makes out a case for impeachment of a much more serious
nature than that worked up against President Johnson".
Following this long and critical speech by the able Senator from
Massachusetts, his distinguished colleague from Missouri addressed the Senate in
much the same tenor and with equal eloquence. he paid high tribute to Grant as
a military leader, but argued that the President had failed in civil life, and
in this instance had greatly exceeded his authority as Chief Executive, much to
the disadvantage of his party and to the embarrassment of the entire nation.
With a display of unusual eloquence, he compared the President
to the Duke of Wellington. No man, he said, has given so much glory to the arms
of old England as has the Duke, "yet all that glory could not protect his
windows against the stones thrown by multitudes of indignant citizens when, as a
minister he had forfeited the favor of the people." The vote of the House of
Commons, which drove him from power, the speaker continued, "did not wipe out
the glories of the Peninsular campaign nor dim the luster of Waterloo".
In like manner, he contended that a disapproval of the
presidential act of General Grant "will not encroach upon our appreciation of
the capture of Vicksburg and the victory of Richmond". But, he declared, "the
laurels of Vicksburg and Richmond cannot make his acts now under discussion
constitutional, nor can they turn a presidential blunder into an act of wisdom".
In the face of such a barrage of eloquence and logic centered
against the President, any defense program seemed to be almost useless. There
was a hurried conference, however, and it was decided that James Harlan should
lead the defense forces. If he was to speak, it must be at the next morning's
session. As in the case of Webster's reply to Hayne, the speaker had but a
single night "to sleep upon his speech". But that proved to be sufficient. On
the following day, March 29, 1871. Senator Harlan presented his defense of the
President in such a masterly and forceful manner that both Sumner and Schurz
were forced from their positions of attack, and the contention that the
President had committed an offense, so gross as to warrent impeachment, was
After paying tribute to the ability of the venerable Senator
from Massachusetts and to his able supporter from Missouri, Senator Harlan
proceeded to examine the charges made against the President. "You may travel
through these long columns of extracts and comments which required several hours
for their delivery," he said, "and you will find the whole case stated in that
brief sentence, that the President instructed the officers of the Navy to
maintain the peace in Dominica within the limits of that republic, and if need
be, to repel foreign invasion during the pending of the treaties."
In the opinion of Harlan, there was nothing in these
instructions to justify the charge of belligerent intervention. Moreover, no
act of hostility or force had been committed. Thus the issues were clearly
joined. The two Senators maintained that the President "had no right to use
force to protect the existing Government with which we were at the time in
incipient treaty relations". On the other hand, there were other Senators
"equally learned" who believed that the President might thus protect the
territory, which it seemed the United States might soon acquire. It was a nice
question, and one upon which the destiny of men and the welfare of a nation was
at that moment pending. Fortunately, no act of violence had resulted from the
As the debate proceeded Senator Sumner interrupted to say that
the real cause for denouncing the President was that he had seized the power to
declare war, which belongs to Congress. Mr. Harlan admitted that the
Constitution gives to Congress the power to declare war, but he contended that
it did not clothe Congress with the additional power to deal with those matters
which might precede an actual declarations of war.
"Wars against the Indian tribes, he reminded his opponents,
"have been carried on in this country, year after year, from the days of General
Washington down to the days of General Grant. Armies are marched into the
field, infantry, cavalry, and artillery, and pitched battles are fought; and yet
I doubt if you can find, during our whole national history, one instance of a
formal declaration of war by Congress against an Indian tribe."
As further illustrations of the exercise of war power, Senator
Harlan declared that an army had been marched into Utah to suppress an armed
force, without a declaration of war; that the first great battle of the Mexican
War was fought before Congress took notice of our controversy with Mexico; and
that even in the Civil War hostilities were begun in a mann not specifically
provided for in the Constitution.
After a display of repartee and witticism, indulged in by
various members of the Senate, Sumner again interrupted to say that "Everybody .
. . . recognizes the right of national defense." Thereupon Mr. Harlan replied:
"I expected to drive both Senators from their position before I closed. I had
not expected them to yield so early in the discussion."
At that point Senator John Serman of Ohio gained the floor to
request that the Senator from Iowa be given at least the same courtesy that had
been extended the other two Senators. For, he said, "I think, with a single
remark or two, he has probably exploded most of their speeches, and I should
like to hear him go on."
Having completed his array of arguments in support of the
President's action, and having, cited various cases of precedent for such
action, Senator Harlan turned his attention to a consideration of the motives
which animated the attack upon the President. He deprecated the whole
discussion as one which had obviously been instituted for political purposes.
With consummate skill and adroitness, he presented the view that certain
politicians were willing that Grant should receive full glory for the victories
of his military career, but they wished to rob him as President of the
confidence of the American people. They were endeavoring, he said, to place
either themselves or a friend in the executive chair. Moreover, it was charged
that Senator Schurz had quarreled with the President because a few postmasters
in Missouri were appointed without his approval.
At that point in the debate Senator Schurz sprang to his feet
with an emphatic denial of the obvious assumption that "the appointment of a few
postmasters" would in any way influence his course in so important a matter as
that now under consideration. Senator Harlan retorted: "Mr. President, the
honorable Senator leaps to a conclusion that I have not stated . . . Without
the patience to wait till I drew my conclusion, he drew a conclusion for
himself, a conclusion, I doubt not, that has been drawn long since by a majority
of the American people."
The Senator from Iowa explained that he would not attribute to
the Senator from Missouri, or indeed, to any Senator, "a consciousness of being
influenced by any such consideration". He expressed a doubt, however, that Mr.
Schurz "is any nearer infallible than other men of equal culture, rank, and
learning". And he thought it barely possible that the Senator's judgment "might
be warped a hair's breadth" by a feeling of personal unkindness, "without his
being conscious of it or feeling degraded by it".
Harlan then took the position that the two opposing Senators had
"testified before the Senate, rather than debated", he said, and had "given it
as their opinion that President Grant is a worse man, more worthy of impeachment
than Andy Johnson because they have found, after a year's perusal of documents,
that he instructed some naval officer to make a threat of the use of force if
our inchoate rights in the island of San Domingo should be interfered with
either by rebels or by a foreign force."
Then Harlan advanced one step further and asked a series of
pertinent questions. "Has any crime been committed", he inquired, "have
anybody's rights been trampled under foot, has any body's life, liberty, or
property been sacrificed by the President of the United States?" Whether an
erroneous interpretation of international law may have been entertained at the
State Department or by the President he believed was of but little consequence
in a matter as grave as this. Accordingly, he moved that the resolution of
investigation which had provoked this discussion be laid on the table, and the
motion was carried by a vote of thirty-nine to sixteen.
The defense speech was widely heralded as a conspicuous success.
The New York Times declared that Harlan was "effective beyond
expectation" when he took the floor. "He pinned the cause and the object of the
speeches so fast to their authors that the attempt to escape was futile". A Des
Moines editor declared: "Senator Sumner made shipwreck of his ill-advised and
illstarred expedition against President Grant and the Republican party". His
first campaign, the editor continued, "closed with remarked discredit to
himself," and his three weeks of "battle and bushwhacking" were brought to a
sudden end by the masterly speech of Senator Harlan and by the passage of the
motion that the "resolution in arraignment of Grant" be laid upon the table.
This salient victory of Senator Harlan was greeted by the
friends of the President with great enthusiasm. While the speaker was
concluding the debate, a crowd of Congressmen and others, filling the Senate
Chamber, pressed forward "until General Sherman, rigidly erect, his arms folded,
his wonderful, eagle eye flashing and gleaming as if in battle, stood but a yard
away from Mr. Harlan watching him intently." The moment it was over, Sherman
was gone. Zachariah Chandler, Senator from Michigan and later Secretary of the
Interior in Grant's Cabinet, called a cab and drove rapidly to the Executive
Mansion. But "Old Tecumseh" was there just ahead of him and , "bouncing
upstairs and into the President's room, the delighted General shouted: "Grant,
Harlan's done it! He knocked them this way, and he knocked them that way!' "
With eloquent gesticuculation the General swung out each arm in succession,
illustrating how the Iowa Senator had struck down the arguments advanced by his
In the years preceding the Civil War Senator Harlan had
established an enviable reputation as a master of the forensic arts, but in his
post-bellum career none of his oratorical efforts surpassed his defense of
President Grant. In his own words, two eminent Senators had testified before
the Senate "with great eloquence". But there are times when eloquence is placed
in the balance against justice and right, and is found wanting. Harlan was
pleading what he believed to be a just cause, and in the pleading of that cause
he won a signal victory.
Just a week later the report of the Santo Domingo Commission was
transmitted to the Senate. After a remarkably searching and impartial
investigation they sustained Grant's action in the strongest possible terms.
The President regarded the report as complete repudiation of the charges of
corruption made against him, and shifted the responsibility for any further
action to the Senate. And so the question of Dominican annexation was
J. A. SWISHER