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Page 234


My Dear Old Friend:—It's got to be a pretty considerable
long while now since I've writ to you; for I never like to
write, you know, without I have something to say. But I've
got something on my mind now that keeps me all the time a
thinking so much that I can't hold in any longer. So, jest
between you and me, I'll tell you what 'tis. But I must begin
a little ways beforehand, so you can see both sides of it, and
I'll tell you what 'tis as soon as I get along to it.

You see I and the President has been down to the Rip Raps a
few weeks, to try to recruit up a little; for that pesky tower
away Down East like to did the job for the old Gineral. So,
after we got things pretty much to rights here, we jest
stepped aboard the steamboat and went down to the Rip
Raps. That are Rip Raps is a capital place; it is worth all
the money we ever paid for it, if it was for nothing else only
jest to recruit up the Government. It is one of the most
coolest places in the summer time that you ever see. Let a
feller be all worn out and wilted down as limpsy as a rag, so
that the doctors would think he was jest ready to fly off the
handle, and let him go down to the Rip Raps, and stay there
a fortnight, and he'd come home again as smart as a steeltrap.


Page 235
The President got recruited up so nicely, while we
were down to the Rip Raps, that ever since we got back, till
two or three days ago, he has been as good-natured and
sociable as ever I should wish to see a body. And now I'm
coming, pretty soon, to what I was going to tell you about,
that bears so heavy on my mind.

You see the President likes, every morning after the breakfast
is out of the way, to set down and read over the newspapers,
and see what is going on in the country, and who's
elected, and so on. So, when we've done breakfast, we take
the letters and papers that come from the Post-Office, and go
away by ourselves into the great East Room, where we can
say jest what we've a mind to, and nobody not hear us, and
the President sets down in his great arm rocking-chair and
smokes his cigar, and I set down by the table and read to
him. Last Monday morning, as I was reading over the
papers, one arter another, I come to a Pennsylvany paper,
and opened it, and says I, “Hullow, Gineral, here's a speech
of Mr. Webster, at Pittsburgh, as large as life.”

“Ah,” said he, “well, let us hear what Daniel has been
talking to them are Pennsylvany and Ohio chaps about.”

So, I hitched back in my chair, and read on. And by and
by I begun to get into the marrow of the story, where he told
all about nullification, and what a dark time we had of it last
winter, and how the black clouds begun to rise and spread
over the country, and the thunders of civil war begun to roll and
rumble away off to the South, and by and by how the tempest
was jest ready to burst over our heads, and split the country
all into shivers, and how, in the very nick of time, the President's
proclamation came out and spread over the whole
country like a rainbow, and how everybody then took courage
and said the danger was all over. While I had been reading
this, the President had started up on his feet, and walked


Page 236


[Description: 688EAF. Page 236. In-line image. One man is seated in a chair reading a newspaper while another is pacing on the floor, holding his pipe in his hand.A few other chairs are scattered throughout the room.]
back and forth across the room pretty quick, puffing away and
making the smoke roll out of his mouth like a house a fire;
and by the time I had got through, he had thrown his cigar
out of the window, and come and sot down, leaning his elbow
on the table, and looking right in my face. I laid the paper
down, and there he sot looking right at me as much as five
minutes, and never said a word; but he seemed to keep a
thinking as fast as a horse could run. At last, said he,
“Major Downing, were you ever told that you resembled
Daniel Webster?”

“Why, Gineral,” says I, “how do you mean—in looks or

“Why, perhaps a little of both,” says he, “but mostly in


Page 237

“Bless my stars,” says I, “Gineral, you don't mean to say
that I am quite so dark as he is?”

“Perhaps not,” says he, “but you have that sharp, knowing
look, as though you could see right through a millstone.
I know,” says he, “that Mr. Webster is rather a dark-looking
man, but there isn't another man in this country that can
throw so much light on a dark subject as he can.”

“Why, yes,” says I, “he has a remarkable faculty for that;
he can see through most anything, and he can make other
folks see through it, too. I guess,” says I, “if he'd been
born in old Virginny, he'd stood next to most anybody.”

“A leetle afore 'em,” says the Gineral, “in my way of thinking.
“I'll tell you what 'tis, Major, I begin to think your
New Englanders ain't the worst sort of fellows in the world,
after all.”

“Ah, well,” says I, “seeing is believing, and you've been
down tnat way now, and can judge for yourself. But if you
had only gone as fur as Downingville, I guess you would
have thought still better of 'em than you do now. Other
folks may talk larger and bluster more,” says I, “but whenever
you are in trouble, and want the real support in time of
need, go to New England for it, and you never need to be
afraid but what it will come.”

“I believe you are right,” says the Gineral; “for, notwithstanding
all I could do with my proclamation against nullification,
I believe I should have rubbed hard if there had been
no such men in the country as Major Downing and Daniel
Webster. But this nullification business isn't killed yet.
The tops are beat down, but the roots are alive as ever, and
spreading under ground wider and wider; and one of these
days, when they begin to sprout up again, there'll be a
tougher scrabble to keep 'em down than there has been yet;
and I've been thinking,” says he, and he laid his hand on my


Page 238
shoulder, and looked very anxious—“I've been thinking,”
says he, “if you and Daniel”—

And here the door opened, and in come Amos Kendil with
a long letter from Mr. Van Buren about the Bank, and the
Safety Fund, and the Government Deposits, and I don't know
what all; and the President's brow was clouded in a minute;
for he always feels kind of pettish when they plague him
about the Safety Fund. I haven't had any chance to talk
with him since, there's so many of 'em round him; and I'm
as uneasy as a fish out of water, I feel so anxious to know
what the President was going to say about me and Daniel.
I shall watch the first chance when I think it will do to talk
with him, and find out what he was going to say. I can't
hardly sleep a nights, I think so much about it. When I find
out I'll write to you again.

Send my love to the folks up in Downingville when you
have a chance.

I remain your sincere friend,