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Page 119


Dear Uncle Joshua:—It's pretty trying times here. They
carry on so like the old smoker, I don't hardly know what to
make of it. If I hadn't said I wouldn't leave Washington
till I got an office, I don't know but I should come back to


Page 120
Downingville and go to planting potatoes. Them are Huntonites
and Jacksonites down there in Maine last winter
were pretty clever sort of folks to what these chaps are here.
Cause down there if they got ever so mad, they didn't do
nothing but talk and jaw one another; but here, if anybody
doesn't do to suit 'em, fact they'll up and shoot him in a
minute. I didn't think getting an office was such dangerous
kind of business, or I don't know as I should have tried it.
Howsomever, it's neck or nothing with me now, and I must
do something to try to get some money here, for I about as
lieves die as to undertake to foot it away back agin clear to
the State of Maine. And as the folks have to go armed here,


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I want you to put my old fowling piece into the stage and
send it on here as quick as possible. I hope you'll be as
quick as you can about it, for if I get an office I shan't dare to
take it till I get my gun. They come pretty near having a
shooting scrape here yesterday. The Telegraph paper said
something about Mr. Eaton's wife. It was nothing that I
should think they need to make such a fuss about; it only
said that some of the ladies here refused to visit her. But
some how or other it made Mr. Eaton as mad as a March hair.
He declared he'd fight somebody, he didn't care who.

The first man he happened to come at was Mr. Ingham.
So he dared Mr. Ingham out to fight. Not to box, as they do
sometimes up in Downingville, but to stand and shoot at


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each other. But Mr. Ingham wouldn't touch to, and told him
he was crazy. That made Mr. Eaton ten times more mad
than he was before; and he declared he'd flog him anyhow,
whether he was willing or not. So he got a gang of gentlemen
yesterday to go with him to the Treasury Office, where
Mr. Ingham does his writing, and waited there and in a grog
shop close by as much as two hours for a chance to catch him
and give it to him. Mr. Ingham was out a visiting in the
city, and when he got home his folks told him what was going
on, and begged him not to go to the office, for he would certainly
be killed. “Poh,” says he, “do you think I'm afraid of
them are blustering chaps? There's more smoke than fire
there, I can tell ye; give me my pistols, it is time for me to go
to the office.” Some of the ladies cried, and some almost
fainted away. But he pacified 'em as well as he could, and
then set out for the office, and three or four men went with
him, and I guess they carried something under their arms
that would make daylight shine through a feller pretty quick.
And I guess the gang of gentlemen waiting for him begun
to smell a rat, for they cleared out pretty soon and never
touched him. But their courage came again in the evening,
and this same gang of gentlemen turned out and marched up
to Mr. Ingham's house, and threatened to burst the doors open
and drag him out by the hair of the head and skin him alive.
I thought this was carrying the joke rather too far, so I tho't
I'd put in my oar; for when I see any body run upon too hard
I can't help taking their part.

So I stepped up to Mr. Ingham's front door steps, and threw
my hat down, and rolled up my sleeves, and spit on my hands;
and by that time the chaps began to stare at me a little. And

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[Description: 688EAF. Illustration page. A man in his shirtsleeves stands with his fists raised, and one pointed out at other men in suits who stand around him on the porch of a building. His jacket and hat lie in the street in front of the porch.]

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now says I, “Major Eaton, this is quite too bad. A man's
house is his castle. Here's Mr. Ingham in his house as peaceable
as a lamb; he isn't a meddling with nobody, and you
needn't think to drag him out here to-night, I can tell ye. If
you really want to take a bit of a box, just throw away your
powder and ball and here's the boy for you. I'll take a fist or
two with you and glad of the chance.”

“You impudent scoundrel,” says he, “who are you? what
business is it to you what I done? Clear out, or I'll send you
where you ought to have been long ago.”

“Well, then, you'll send me into some good office,” says I,
“for there's where I ought to have been more than two years

“Well,” says he, “clear out;” and up he come blustering
along toward the steps. But I jest put my foot down, and
doubled up my fist, and now, says I, “Major Eaton, it won't
be healthy for you to come on to these steps to-night.”

Says he, “I'm going through that door whether or no.”
Says I, “you don't go through this door to-night, without you
pass over the dead body of Jack Downing, of the State of
Maine.” My stars, when they heard that, they dropt their
heads as quick as though they had been cut off, for they didn't
know who I was before. Major Eaton and the whole gang of
gentlemen with him turned right about and marched away as
whist as mice. They were afraid I should have 'em all before
the President to-day, and have 'em turned out of office; for it's
got whispered round the city that the President sets a great
deal by me, and that I have a good deal of influence with him.

This morning Mr. Ingham started for Philadelphy. Before
he left, he thanked me a thousand times for defending his


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house so well last night, and he wrote a letter to the President,
telling him all about the scrape. I went a piece with
him to see him safe out of the city on the great road toward

About my prospects for an office, I can't tell you yet how I
shall come out. I've been in to see the President a number
of times, and he talks very favorable. I have some chance to
get in to be Secretary of War, if old Judge White don't take
it; and if I don't get that the President says he'll do the best
he can for me.

I never had to be so strict a Republikan before in my life as
I've had to be since I've been here, in order to get the right
side of the President. I'll tell you something about it in my
next, and about my visits to the President, and a good many
other famous things here.

P. S.—Be sure and send the old gun as quick as possible.

Your loving neffu,


[Editorial Note.—It will be remembered, by those whose political reminiscences
extend back so far, that General Jackson's first Cabinet blew up. In
other words, the whole Cabinet resigned in a body. This came upon the
country something like a thunder-clap. Very soon upon the heels of the
thunder-clap came an after-clap, which produced a sensation throughout the
country scarcely inferior to that of the thunder-clap. The thunder-clap and
the after-clap were believed to be intimately connected, and some even went
so far as to say that the after-clap was the real cause of the thunder-clap.
Major Downing's letter gives some of the exciting scenes of the after-clap,
and perhaps a few words should be added here explanatory of the whole affair.

There was an inside view and an outside view to this Cabinet difficulty, as
well as most other things in the world. The inside view, the Senatorial view,
such as Colonel Benton would take in his “Thirty Years,” was something
like this: Mr. Calhoun, the Vice-President, and Mr. Van Buren, the Secretary
of State, were rival competitors for the successorship to the office of
President. It came to the knowledge of the President that a proposition had
been made in Mr. Monroe's Cabinet to punish General Jackson for his conduct
and doings in Florida, in the Seminole War. For some time General
Jackson believed that this proposition in the Cabinet came from Mr. Crawford,
and that he was triumphantly defended by Mr. Calhoun and Mr. Adams,
a statement having been published in a Western newspaper to this effect.
Afterward the General learned, on the authority of Mr. Crawford and from
other sources, that it was Mr. Calhoun who made the proposition to punish
him, and that he was protected in the Cabinet by Mr. Crawford and Mr.
Adams. And he believed, as did also Mr. Crawford, that the reverse and
false statement in the papers had been published at the instigation of Mr.
Calhoun. This, of course, produced a decided coolness, or rather a warm difficulty,
between the President and the Vice-President. Mr. Calhoun thereupon
published a pamphlet, addressed to the people of the United States, to
explain the cause of the difficulty, and charging Mr. Van Buren with being
at the bottom of all the mischief. The President and Vice-President were at
sword-points, the members of the Cabinet were divided on the points of the
quarrel—some of them were for Mr. Van Buren for the succession and some
for Calhoun. An explosion was inevitable. The President had become attached
to Mr. Van Buren, and was ready to do anything in the world for

It was finally determined that there must be a re-organization of the
Cabinet. Mr. Ingham, Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Branch, Secretary of
the Navy, and Mr. Berrien, Attorney-General, were in favor of Mr. Calhoun;
and Major Eaton, Secretary of War, and Mr. Barry, Postmaster-General,
were in favor of Mr. Van Buren. In order to relieve the President from the
necessity of dismissing any members of the Cabinet, Mr. Van Buren proposed
that the whole Cabinet should resign, which was promptly done. Their
places were filled as follows: Edward Livingston, of Louisiana, Secretary of
State; Louis McLane, of Delaware, Secretary of the Treasury; Lewis Cass,
of Ohio, Secretary of War; Levi Woodbury, of New Hampshire, Secretary
of the Navy; Amos Kendall, of Kentucky, Postmaster-General; Roger B.
Taney, of Maryland, Attorney-General. Mr. Downing, who “footed it”
from Portland to Washington for the express purpose of filling one of these
offices, was a little too late, it seems, as other people are sometimes who go
to Washington on a similar errand. So much for the inside view.

The outside view of this matter, such as Mr. Downing would take in his
“Thirty Years,” and such as a good many outside folks took at the time,
showed “a lady in the case.” Mr. Eaton had married Mrs. Timberlake,
widow of an officer of the navy, and Mr. Eaton and his wife were pets and
protegés of President Jackson. But, in consequence of certain gossip or
slanders about this lady, the wives of the other members of the Cabinet refused
to visit or associate with her. Then, of course, “the fat was all in the
fire.” No Cabinet could stand an ordeal like that without an explosion.
General Jackson was furious as a roaring lion, and Major Eaton a little
more so. He challenged Mr. Ingham to a duel, but Ingham would not fight.
Then followed the scenes of attempted redress with canes and bowie-knives,
and an assault upon Mr. Ingham's house at night, which was so bravely defended
by Mr. Downing, and so graphically described in his letter, and, we
may add, so well delineated by our artist.