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When we read about great men, we always want to know
something about the place where they live; therefore I shall
begin my history with a short account of Downingville, the
place where I was born and brought up.

Downingville is a snug, tidy sort of a village, situated in a
valley about two miles long, and a mile and a half wide,
scooped out between two large rugged hills that lie to the
east and west, having a thick forest of trees to the north, and
a clear pond of water, with a sandy beach, to the south. It
is about three miles from the main road, as you go back into
the country, and is jest about in the middle of Down East. It
contains by this time a pretty considerable number of inhabitants,
though my grandfather Downing was the first person
that settled there, jest after he got back from sogering in the
Revolutionary war. It has a school-house and a tavern, and
a minister, and a doctor, and a blacksmith, and a shoe-maker,
and folks that work at most all sorts of trades. They haven't
got any meeting house up yet, but the school-house is pretty
large, and does very well to hold meetins in, and they have


Page 14
meetins very regular every Sunday—the men filling up all the
seats on one side of the school-house and the women on the

They haven't got any lawyer in Downingville. There was
one come once and sot out to settle there, and hired a room
and put a sign up over the door with his name on it, and the
word “office” in great large letters, so big you could read 'em
clear across the road. A meeting of the inhabitants was
called at the school-house the next day, and after chawing
the matter over awhile it was unanimously agreed if the man
wanted an office he should go somewhere else for it, for as for
having an office-seeker in Downingville they never would.
So they voted that he should leave the town in twenty-four
hours, or they would take him down to the pond and duck
him, and ride him out of town on a rail. A committee of
twenty of the stoutest men in Downingville was appointed to
carry the message to him, at which he prudently took the
hint, and packed up and cleared out that afternoon. All the
quarrels, and disputes and law-cases are always left out to
Uncle Joshua Downing, and he settles them all, by and large,
at two shillings a piece, except when they have come to
blows, and then he charges two and sixpence a piece.

As I said afore, my grandfather, old Mr. Zebedee Downing,
was the first settler in Downingville. Bless his old heart,
he's living yet [1834], and, although he is eighty-six years
old, he attended a public caucus for the good of his country
about two years ago, and made a speech, when I was nominated
for Governor of the State of Maine.

As it is the fashion, in writing the lives of great folks, to
go back and tell something about their posterity, I spose I


Page 15
ought to give some account of my good old grandfather, for
he was a true patriot, and as strong a republican as ever
Uncle Joshua was. He was born somewhere in the old Bay
State, away back of Boston, and when the Revolutionary war
come on he went a sogering. Many and many a time, when I
was a little boy, I've sot in the corner till most midnight to
hear him tell over his going through the fatigue of Burgwine.
If one of the neighbors came in to chat awhile in an evening,
my grandfather was always sure to go through the fatigue of
Burgwine; and if a stranger was traveling through Downingville
and stopped at my grandfather's in a warm afternoon to
get a glass of water, it was ten chances to one if he could
get away till my grandfather had been through the whole
story of the fatigue of Burgwine. He used to tell it the best
to old Mr. Johnson, who used to come in regularly about once
a week to spend an evening and drink a mug of my grandfather's
cider. And he would set so patiently and hear my
grandfather through from beginning to end, that I never
could tell which took the most comfort, Mr. Johnson in drinking
the cider, or my grandfather in going through the fatigue
of Burgwine. After Mr. Johnson had taken about two or
three drinks, he would smack his lips and say, “I guess, Mr.
Downing, you would have been glad to get such a mug of
cider as this in the battle of Burgwine.”

“Why, yes,” said my grandfather, “or when we was on the
march from Cambridge to Peekskill either, or from Peekskill
to Albany, or from Albany to Saratogue, where we went
through the fatigue of Burgwine. Old Schuyler was our gineral,”
said my grandfather, bracing himself back in his chair,
“and he turned out to be a traitor, and was sent for to go to


Page 16
Gineral Washington to be court-martialed. Then Gineral
Gates was sent to us to take command, and he was a most
capital officer, every inch of him. He had his cocked hat on,
and his regimentals, and his furbelows on his shoulders, and
he looked nobly,” said my grandfather. “I can see him now,
as plain as if 'twas yesterday. He wore a plaguey great stub
cue, as big as my wrist, sticking out at the back of his neck
as straight as a handspike. Well, when Gates came we were
all reviewed, and everything was put in complete order, and
he led us on, ye see, to take Burgwine. By daylight in the
morning we were called out by the sound of the drum, and
drawn up in regiments, and the word was, `on your posts,
march.' And there we stood, marching on our posts without
moving forward an inch; heads up, looking to the right. We
didn't dare to move an eye, or hardly to wink.

“By and by along comes the old Gineral to inspect us, riding
along so stately, and that old stub cue sticking out behind his
head so straight, it seems as though I can see him now, right
here before me. And then he addressed us, like a father talking
to his children. `Fellow soldiers,' says he, `this day we
are going to try the strength of Burgwine's forces. Now let
every man keep a stiff upper lip, go forward boldly and attack
them with courage, and you've nothing to fear.' O, he
addressed us completely; and then we marched off to meet
the inemy. By and by we begun to hear the balls whizzing
over our heads, and the inemy's guns begun to roar like thunder.
I felt terribly for a minute or two, but we kept marching
up, marching up,” said my grandfather, rising and marching
across the floor, “for we had orders not to fire a gun till
we got up so near we could almost reach them with our bagonuts;


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[Description: 688EAF. Page 017. In-line image. Two figures are near a table with two chairs. One is sitting holding a mug in his hand and is staring into his cup. The other has stood up and is holding his cane with the tip upwards.]
and there was a hundred drums all in a bunch, rattling
enough to craze a nation, and the fifes and the bugles,” continued
my grandfather, still marching across the floor, “went
tudle, tudle, tudle, tudle. O, I can hear that very tune ringing
in my ears now as plain as if 'twas yesterday, and I
never shall forget it to my dying day. When we got up so
near the inemy that we could fairly see the white of their
eyes, the word was `halt,'” said my grandfather, suddenly


Page 18
halting in the middle of the floor, and sticking his head back
as straight as a soldier, “`make ready;' 'twas did in a moment,”
continued my grandfather, throwing his staff up
against his shoulder; “`take aim;' 'twas did in a moment,”
fetching his staff down straight before his eyes; “`fire!' then,
O marcy, what a roar!” said my grandfather, striking his staff
down upon the floor, “and such a smother and smoke you
couldn't hardly see your hand afore you. Well, in an instant
the word was, `prime and load,' and as fast as we fired we
fell back in the rear to let others come up and take their turn;
so by the time we were loaded we were in front and ready to
fire again, for we kept marching all the time,” said my grandfather,
beginning to march again across the floor. “But the
inemy stood their ground, and kept pouring in upon us tremendously,
and we kept marching up and firing, marching up
and firing, but didn't gain forward an inch. I felt streaked
enough, for the balls were whistling over our heads, and
sometimes a man would drop down on one side of me, and
sometimes on 'tother; but it wouldn't do for us to flinch a hair;
we must march up and fire, and wheel to the right and left,
and keep it going. By and by the word was, `advance
column,' then, heavens and earth, how light I felt,” said my
grandfather, quickening his march across the floor. “I knew
in a moment the inemy was retreating, and it seemed to me
I could have jumped over the moon. Well, we marched forward,
but still kept firing, and presently we begun to come
on to the inemy's ground; and then, O marcy! such a sight I
never see before and never want to again—stepping over the
dead bodies, and the poor wounded wretches wallowing in
their blood, mangled all to pieces, and such screeches and


Page 19
groans, some crying out, `don't kill me,' `don't kill me,' and
others begging us to kill 'em to put 'em out of misery. O, it
was enough to melt the very heart of a stone!” said my grandfather,
wiping the tears from his eyes.

“But they needn't have been afraid of being hurt, for our
Gineral was one of the best men that ever lived. He had the
carts brought up immediately, and all the poor wounded souls
carried off as fast as possible where they could be taken good
care of. He wouldn't let one of 'em be hurt any more than he
would one of his own men. But it was a dreadful hot battle;
we fit and skirmished all the afternoon and took a good many
prisoners, and some cannon and ammunition. When it came
night the inemy retreated to their fortifications, and we camped
all night on the ground with our guns in our hands, ready at
a moment's warning to pitch battle again. As soon as it was
daylight we were all mustered and paraded again, and round
come the old Gineral to see how we looked. He held his head
up like a soldier, and the old stub cue stuck out as straight as
ever. I can see it now as plain as I can see my staff,” said my
grandfather. “And O, my stars, how he addressed us; it made
our hearts jump to hear him. `Fellow-soldiers,' says he, `this
day we shall make Burgwine tremble. If you are only as
brave as you were yesterday we shall have him and all his
army before night.' But Burgwine had slipped away in the
night, and got into a place stronger fortified. But he couldn't
get away; he was hemmed in all round; so we got him before
it was over. We were five or six days skirmishing about
it; but I can't tell you all, nor a quarter part on't.”

“But how was it you took Burgwine at last?” said Mr.
Johnson, taking another drink of cider. “O, he had to give


Page 20
it up at last,” said my grandfather. “After we had skirmished
a day or two longer, Gineral Gates sent word to Burgwine
that if he had a mind to march his army back into
Canada, and leave everything this side unmolested, he'd let
him go peaceably. But Burgwine wouldn't accept it; he
sent word back that `he was going to winter with his troops
in Boston.' Well, after we had skirmished round two or three
days longer, and Burgwine got into such close quarters that
he couldn't get away any how, he sent word to Gineral Gates
that he'd accept the offer and march back to Canada; but
Gates sent word back to him again, `You said you meant to
winter in Boston, and I mean to make you as good as your
word.' At last Burgwine see it was no use for him to hold
out any longer, so he give all his men up prisoners of war.
Then we were all paraded in lines a little ways apart to see
them surrender. And they marched out, and marched along
towards us; and it was a most noble sight to see them all
dressed out in their regimentals and their bagonuts glistening
in the sun enough to dazzle anybody's eyes. And they
marched along and stacked their arms, and marched through
between our lines looking homesick enough. I guess we felt
as well as they did, if our clothes wan't so good.”

Mr. Johnson handed me the mug and told me to run and get
another mug of cider; for before my grandfather could get
through the fatigue of Burgwine, Mr. Johnson would most
always get to the bottom of the mug. When I brought in the
second mug, Mr. Johnson took another sip and smacked his
lips, and says he:

“Mr. Downing, I should like to drink a toast with you; so
here's health and prosperity to the apple trees of Downingville.


Page 21
Mr. Downing, what will you drink to us!” said he,
handing the mug to my grandfather.

“Why I don't keer about any cider,” said my grandfather,
(for he is a very temperate man, and so are all the Downings
remarkably temperate,) “but I will jest drink a little to the
memory of the greatest and the bravest Gineral that this
world ever see yet; so here's my respects to old Gineral
Gates' stub cue.”

By this time, my grandfather having poured out of him the
whole fatigue of Burgwine, and Mr. Johnson having poured
into him about three pints of cider, they would both of them
feel pretty considerably relieved, and Mr. Johnson would bid
us good night and go home.

I take it that it was hearing these stories of my grandfather's
bravery told over so often in my younger days, that
made me such a military character as to induce the President
to appoint me to the command at Madawaska, and also to go
to South Carolina to put down the Nullifiers. But I'm getting
a little before my story, for I haven't got through with my
grandfather yet, and my father comes before I do, too. As I
said afore, my grandfather was the first settler in Downingville.
When he got through sogering in the Revolutionary
War, he took a notion he'd go and pick him out a good lot of
land away Down East to settle on, where there was land
enough to be had jest for whistling for it, and where his boys
would have a chance to do something in the world. So he
took grandmother and the two boys—for father and uncle
Joshua were all the boys he had then, and packed them into a
horse waggon, and took an axe, and a hoe, and a shovel, and
some victuals, and a bed-tick to put some straw in, and a gun


Page 22
and some blankets and one thing another, and started off
down East. He drove away into Maine till he got clear to
the end of the road, and then he picked his way along through
the woods and round the pond five miles further, till he got to
the very spot where Downingville now is, and there he stopt
and baited his horse, and while grandmother and the boys sot
down and took a bit of a luncheon, grandfather went away up
top of one of the hills to take a view of the country. And
when he come down again says he, “I guess we may as well
ontackle, for I don't believe we shall find a better place if we
travel all Summer.” So he ontackled the old horse, and took
the waggon and turned it over against a great oak tree, and
put some bushes up around it, and made a pretty comfortable
sort of a house for 'em to sleep in a few nights, and then he
took his axe and slashed away among the trees. But that old
oak never was cut down; it's the very same one that stands
out a little ways in front of grandfather's house now. And
poor grandmother as long as she lived always made a practice
once a year, when the day come round that they first camped
under the old oak, to have the table carried out and set under
the tree; and all hands, children and grandchildren, had to
go and eat supper there, and the good old lady always used
to tell over the whole story how she slept eight nights under
the waggon, and how they were the sweetest nights' rest she
ever had.

Well, grandfather, he smashed away among the trees, and
he soon had half a dozen acres of 'em sprawling, and while
they were drying in the sun he went to work and built him a
snug little log house, and made two stools to set on, one for
him and one for grandmother, and a couple of blocks for the


Page 23


[Description: 688EAF. Page 023. In-line image. A family of three generations is sitting around a table eating a meal. The table is situated beneath a tree. A dog is sitting watching the table and another pet is in a basket nearby. ]
boys. He made a stone fire-place in one corner of the house,
and left a hole in one corner of the roof for the smoke to go
out, and he got it all fixed as nice as a new pin, and then they
moved into it; and I've heard grandmother say more than a
hundred times that she believed she took more comfort in that
log house than ever a queen took in a palace.

When the leaves and the twigs of the trees that grandfather
had cut down had got considerable dry in the sun, he
went out one warm clear afternoon and sot fire to 'em. The
wind was blowing a considerable of a breeze from the southward,


Page 24
and the fire spread almost as fast as a norse could run.
Grandmother used to say it was the grandest sight she ever
see, to see them are six acres of trees all in a light flame at
once, and the fire streaming up as high as the tallest pines,
sometimes in a broad red sheet, and sometimes in narrow
strips that went up rolling and bending like ten thousand
fiery dragons' tongues. After the fire had gone through it,
grandfather went to work to clear it up. He picked up the
limbs and bits that were left, and threw 'em in heaps and sot
fire to 'em again, and he laid sticks across the large logs that
were too heavy to move, and niggered them off with fire, and
then rolled them up in piles and sot fire to 'em again and
burnt 'em all up smack smooth. Then he went to work and
planted the ground all over to corn, and potatoes, and punkins,
and beans, and squashes—and round near the house he
planted water-millions and mush-millions, and cowcumbers,
and beats, and carrots, and turnips; and grandmother carried
out a whole apron full of seeds of all kinds of 'arbs that ever
grew in old Massachusetts, and sowed 'em round, and they
come up as thick as hops.

After this, the family of old Mr. Zebedee Downing always
lived like heroes and never knew what it was to be in want.
They had ten children, and a smart, likely set of boys and
gals they were too, and they all lived to grow up, and were
all married and well-to-do in the world. Father, whose name
was Solomon, was the oldest boy, and as they grew up, the
hardest of the work naturally fell upon him, and as grandfather
begun to get along considerable in years, father had to
take the principal care of the farm. So that he was always
called a hard-working boy and a hard-working man. He had


Page 25
a quiet, peaceable disposition, and was never known to
quarrel with anybody, and scarcely ever to speak a ha'sh

Uncle Joshua was the next oldest, and he was as different
from father as a toad wants a tail. He was a clear shirk,
and never would work if he could help it. But he was
always good-natured, and full of his pranks, and kept his
clack agoing the whole day long; so that the boys used to
like him, and whenever they wanted to have any frolic or fun
they always used to go to him to take the lead. As he grew
up he took to reading considerable, and after they begun to
have newspapers at Downingville he was a master-hand to
read newspapers and talk politics, and by the time he was
twenty-five years old he knew more about politics than any
other man in Downingville. When he was thirty years old
he was chosen Moderator of the town meeting, and has been
chosen to that office every year since. He's been a Squire a
good many years, and has held most all the offices in town,
one after another, and is on the whole considered the foremost
man in Downingville. He is now Postmaster of the United
States for Downingville, an office which I was the means of
helping him to by my acquaintance with the President. But
it's time to begin to tell about myself.

Mother always said I was the smartest baby that she ever
see. I don't speak of this by way of bragging, but as I am
writing a history to go before the world, I'm bound to be impartial.
She says before I was a week old I showed that I
was real grit, and could kick and scream two hours upon the
stretch, and not seem to be the least bit tired that ever was.
But I don't remember anything about this. The first I


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[Description: 688EAF. Page 026. In-line image. A bare-headed and bare-footed boy stands on a piece of pine in order to warm his feet. He holds a piece of cloth in his hands, covering them. In the background are people skating on ice.]
remember, I found myself one cold November day, when I
was about six years old, bareheaded and barefoot, sliding on
the ice. It had been a snapping cold night, and all the boys
in the neighborhood, and most all the gals turned out and had
a fine frolic that day, sliding and running on the pond. Most
of the larger boys had shoes, but we little fellers that wan't
big enough to wear shoes had to tuff it out as well as we
could. I carried a great pine chip in my hand, and when my
feet got so cold I couldn't stand it no longer, I'd put the chip
down and stand on that a little while and warm 'em, and
then at it to sliding again.

When I got to be considerable of a boy I used to have to
work with father on the farm. But it always seemed to go


Page 27
rather against my grain, and father used to say that I didn't
love work a bit better than Uncle Joshua did, without he'd
give me my stent, and then he said I would spring to it and
get it done by noon, and go off round the pond in the afternoon
fishing or hunting musquash. I think I took the most comfort
in catching musquash of anything I used to do. There was a
good deal of pleasure in catching pickerel—to take a long
fishing pole and line, and go down to the pond in the morning,
and stand on a log whose top limbs run away off into the
water, and throw the hook off and bob it about on the top of
the water, and see a great pickerel jump and catch it, and
wait a minute or two for him to get it well into his mouth,
and then pull him ashore, kicking and jumping and flouncing
—this was most capital fun, but it wan't quite equal to musquashing.
I had a little steel trap, and I used to go down at
night to the bank of a brook that run into the pond, and set
the trap on the bank just under water, and fasten it by a line
to a stake or a tree, and put a bit of a parsnip on a stick and
place it over the trap a little above the water, and then go
home and sleep as well as I could for dreaming of musquashes,
and as soon as it was cleverly light in the morning, go
down to the pond and creep along where the trap was sot,
with my heart in my mouth, wondering if it was sprung or
no, and come along to the stake and see no trap, but the line
drawn straight out into the water, then take hold of the line
and draw up the trap, and see it rising up through the water
fast hold of a great, plump musquash, as dead as a drowned
rat, and full of fur as a beaver; this was fun alive; it made
me feel as nicely as though I was hauling up a bucket of dollars.
The summer I was fourteen years old I catched enough


Page 28
to buy me a fur hat and a pair of shoes, and a new jacket and
trousers; and enough to buy me a pretty good new suit of
clothes almost every summer after that till I was twenty.

We used to have a school in Downingville about three
months in the Winter season and two months in the Summer,
and I went to the Winter school three Winters, from the time
I was twelve till I was fifteen. And I was called about the
best scholar of my age that there was in school. But to be
impartial, I must confess the praise didn't always belong to
me, for I used sometimes to work headwork a little in order
to get the name of being a smart scholar. One instance of
it was in reading. I got along in reading so well, that the
master said I read better than some of the boys that were
considerable older than I, and that had been to school a dozen
Winters. But the way I managed it was this. There was
cousin Obediah was the best reader there was in school, and
as clever a boy as one in a thousand, only his father hadn't
got no orchard. So I used to carry a great apple to school in
my pocket every day und give to him to get him to set behind
me when I was reading, where he could peak into my book,
and when I come to a hard word, have him whisper it to me,
and then I read it out loud. Well, one day I was reading
along so, pretty glib, and at last I come to a pesky great
long crooked word, that I couldn't make head nor tail to it.
So I waited for Obediah. But it proved to be a match for
Obediah. He peaked, and squinted, and choked, and I was
catching my breath and waiting for him to speak; and at
last he found he could do nothing with it, and says he “skip
it.” The moment I heard the sound I bawled out, skip it.
“What's that?” said the master, looking at me as queer as


Page 29
though he had catched a weazel asleep. I stopt and looked
at the word again, and poked my tongue out, and waited for
Obediah. Well, Obediah give me a hunch, and whispered
again, “skip it.” Then I bawled out again, skip it. At that
the master and about one-half the scholars yaw-hawed right
out. I couldn't stand that; and I dropt the book and
streaked it out of school, and pulled foot for home as fast as
I could go, and I never showed my head in school again from
that day to this. But for all that, I made out to pick up a
pretty good education. I got so I could read and spell like a
fox, and could cypher as far as the rule of three. And when
I got to be about twenty years old, I was strongly talked of
one Winter for schoolmaster. But as a good many of the
same boys and gals would go to me, that were in the school
when I read “skip it,” I didn't dare to venture it for fear
there would be a sort of a snickering among 'em whenever
any of them come to a hard word.

So I jogged along with father on the farm. But let me be
doing what I would, whether it was hoeing potatoes, or pitching
hay, or making stone wall, or junking and piling logs,
I never could feel exactly easy. Something seemed to keep
ringing in my ears all the time, and saying I was made to do
something in the world besides this. And an old woman that
come along and told fortunes, when she come to tell mine said
that wherever I should go and whatever I should undertake
to do, I should always get to the top of the ladder. Well,
this made me keep a thinking so much the harder, and wondering
what I should be in the world, and although I used to
stick to my work as steady as any of the boys, yet I used to
feel as uneasy as a fish out of water. But what made me


Page 30


[Description: 688EAF. Page 030. In-line image. A young man leans on his hoe and looks towards the heavens while his father watches him from a distance. There is a tree in the background. His hat lays by his side.]
think most about it was father. He always used to stand to
it I was smarter than common boys, and used to tell mother
she might depend upon it, if I lived and nothing didn't
happen to me, I should some day or other raise the name of
the Downings higher than it ever had been yet.

At last father dreampt a dream, that put the cap-stone upon
the whole of it. He dreampt that I was out in the field hoeing
potatoes, and he stood leaning over his staff, as he very
often used to do, looking at me. By and by he said I stopped


Page 31
hoeing, and stood up and leaned my chin on my hoe-handle,
and seemed to look up toward the sky; and he said I looked
as calm as the moon in a clear Summer night. Presently my
hat began to rise up gradually and dropped off on the ground,
but I stood still. Then he said the top of my head began to
open, and a curious green plant began to sprout up out of it.
And it grew up about two feet, and sent out ever so many
young branches with broad green leaves, and then the little
buds began to open and roll out great clusters of the most
beautiful bright flowers, one above another, that ever he see
in all his life. He watched 'em till they all got blowed out
into a great round bunch, as big as a bushel basket, and then
he waked up, and he felt so he got right out of bed and
walked the floor till morning. And when we all got up he sot
down and told the dream over to me and mother. Mother sot
with her pocket-handkerchief wiping the tears out of her eyes
all the time he was telling of it; and I felt as though my
blood was running cold all over me. But from that time I
always felt sure the time would come when Downingville
wouldn't be big enough to hold me, and that I should do
something or other in the world that would be worth telling
of; but what it would be I couldn't think.

Well, I kept jogging along on the farm after the same old
sort, year after year, so long, and there didn't nothing happen
to me, that sometimes I almost begun to give it up, and
think, sure enough, it was all nothing but a dream. Still I
kept having spells that I felt terribly uneasy, and was
tempted forty times to pack up and go and seek my fortune.
I might tell a good deal more about my life, and my uncles
and aunts and cousins, and the rest of the neighbors, but I


Page 32
begin to feel a most tired of writing my life, and I believe I
shall have to serve it pretty much as I planted my watermillion
seeds; and that was this: When I was about six or
seven years old our folks give me a pint of watermillion seeds
and told me to go out into the field and plant 'em for myself,
and I might have all I could raise. So off I goes, tickled
enough. And I went to work and punched little holes down
in the ground and put in one seed to time along in a row,
three or four inches apart, till I got about half the seeds
planted. It was rather a warm afternoon, and I began to
feel a little tired, so I took and dug a hole and poured the
rest of the seeds all in together, and covered 'em up, and
went into the house. Well, mother asked me if I planted my
seeds. “Yes, mam,” says I. “What, all of 'em?” says she.
“Yes, mam,” says I. “But you've been very spry,” says
she, “how did you get them done so quick?” “O,” says I,
“easy enough; I planted 'em in a hill and a row.” And when
they begun to come up they found 'em in a hill and a row,
sure enough. So I believe I shall have to pour the rest of my
life into a hill and let it go.

To come, then, right to the pint—I don't mean the pint of
watermillion seeds, but the pint in my life which seemed to be
the turning pint. In the Fall of the year 1829, I took it into
my head I'd go to Portland. So one day I up and told father,
and says I, “I'm going to Portland, whether or no, and I'll
see what this world's made of yet.” Father stared a little at
first, and said he was afraid I should get lost; but when he
see I was bent upon it he give it up, and he stepped to his
chist and opened the till, and took out a dollar and give it to
me, and says he, “Jack, this is all I can do for you; but go,


Page 33


[Description: 688EAF. Page 033. In-line image. A young man sits in the seat of a cart with a horse pulling it. In the back of the cart are several packages indicating a long journey. Two chickens scramble out of the way of the horse as it canters past a house.]
and lead an honest life, and I believe I shall hear good of you
yet.” He turned and walked across the room, but I could see
the tears start into his eyes, and mother sot down and had a
hearty crying spell. This made me feel rather bad for a
minute or two, and I almost had a mind to give it up; and
then again father's dream came into my mind, and I mustered
up courage and declared I'd go. So I tackled up the old
horse, and packed in a load of ax-handles and a few notions,
and mother fried me some doughnuts and put 'em into a box
along with some cheese and sassages, and ropped me up
another shirt, for I told her I didn't know how long I should
be gone; and after I got all rigged out I went round and bid
all the neighbors good bye, and jumped in and drove off for

I hadn't been in Portland long before I happened to blunder
into the Legislater; and I believe that was the beginning of


Page 34
my good luck. I see such queer kinds of carrying on there
that I couldn't help setting down and writing to cousin
Ephraim to tell uncle Joshua about it; because he always
wanted to know everything that's going on in Politics. So I
went to the editor of the Portland Courier and asked him if he
would send it. So I let him have it, and fact, he went right
to work and printed it in the Courier as large as life. He
said he wouldn't let anybody else see it but cousin Ephraim;
but somehow or other it leaked out, and was all over the
Legislater the next morning, and everybody was inquiring
for Mr. Downing. Well, this kind of got me right into public
life at once; and I've been in public life ever since, and have
been writing letters and rising up along gradually, one step
after another, till I've got up along side of the President, and
am talked of now pretty strong for President myself, and
have been nominated in a good many of the first papers of
the country.

My public life will be found in my letters, one after another,
jest as they come, from the time I first sent that letter in the
Portland Courier to cousin Ephraim till this time.



It will be seen by the date above that I wrote this little
history of my life twenty odd years ago. It was the time the
Boston folks published a little vollum of my first Letters, and
the Life was writ to head the vollum with. But I've seen a
great deal more of the world since then, and have writ a
great many more Letters, and seen a great deal more of the


Page 35
workings of American Politicians. And they'll all have to
come into my Thirty Years' View. But there'll be a kind of
gap near the close of Gineral Jackson's time, and for awhile
after, because a lot of my letters, written at that time, was
lost in a fire some years afterward, and I don't suppose I can
now find the papers they was published in. But I will bridge
over the gap as well as I can, and there'll be a pretty long
road to travel both sides of it. And this reminds me how
strange the parallel runs between me and Colonel Benton;
for he lost a lot of his letters and speeches and dockyments by
fire, and had a good deal of a hard job to go over the ground
again in getting up his work. But I and Colonel Benton are
hard to beat. We generally go ahead, let what will stand in
the way.