MARK TWAIN'S LETTERS FROM WASHINGTON.
WASHINGTON, January 30, 1868
Sergeant Gilbert H. Bates of Wisconsin is the last candidate for pedestrian notoriety. He has made a bet that he will walk, alone, unarmed, without a cent in his pocket, and bearing aloft the American flag, through the late Southern Confederacy, from Vicksburg to Washington. He is already on his way, and the telegraph is noting his progress. The Mayor and a large portion of the population of Vicksburg ushered him out of that city with a grand demonstration. He proposes to sell photographs of himself at 25 cents apiece, all along his route, and convert the proceeds into a fund to be devoted to the aid and comfort of widows and orphans of soldiers who fought in the late war, irrespective of flag or politics. And then, I suppose, when he gets a good round sum together, for the widows and orphans, he will hang up his flag and go and have a champagne blow-out. I don't believe in people who collect money for benevolent purposes and don't charge for it. I don't have full confidence in people who walk a thousand miles for the benefit of widows and orphans and don't get a cent for it. I question the uprightness of people who peddle their own photographs, anyhow, whether they carry flags or not. In my opinion a man might as well start his name with an initial and spell his middle name out and hope to be virtuous.
But this fellow will get more black eyes, down there among those unconstructed rebels than he can ever carry along with him without breaking his back. I expect to see him coming into Washington some day on one leg and with one eye out and an arm gone. He won't amount to more than an interesting relic by the time he gets here and then he will have to hire out for a sign for the Anatomical Museum. Those fellows down there have no sentiment in them. They won't buy his picture. They will be more likely to take his scalp.
Now the next ass that turns up will be wanting to carry a Confederate flag through the North, and wouldn't he have a cheerful time of it? What a pity it is that that insufferable fool, George Francis Train, did not think of that. He would have tried it, in a minute, and got hanged, and it would have been a blessing to the country. It would have transferred that tiresome gab of his to the other world, and from that time forward there never would have been any peace in hell any more. When the English found what a poor, clattering frog they had flattered with imprisonment, they were ashamed of themselves, and turned him loose. And ever since then he has been squandering his substance in sending bombastic telegrams over here about his suing the British crown for [pounds]500,000 (money enough to buy a sane man with); and about his protesting officially against this, that and the other thing; and about "Derby" threatening boastfully, but "trembling" (at such a sputtering bladder of gas as Train!); and about his going to "stump Ireland." Was there ever such a world of egotism stuffed into one carcass before? Surely there is no room left in him for bowels. Do you know that that idiot is aspiring to the Presidency of the United States? He honestly is. He said in a farewell speech on shipboard, as he left New York - a speech slobbering adulation and nauseating buncombe over half a dozen Irishmen out of business, that in due time he would be the People's President. However, the same God that made George Francis Train made also the mosquitoes and the rats, and in His infinite wisdom He knows what He did it for. Human beings don't, though. Train established a newspaper in New York (the Revolution) to keep his notoriety alive while he wagged his ears in Europe. Last week, in New York, I saw six young girls walking up Broadway in single file, arrayed in showy uniform dresses of red merino, with white bodies, and on their heads they wore blue caps - red, white and blue, do you observe? - and each girl had a belt about her waist with "Revolution" painted on it, and had also a bundle of Revolution newspapers under her arm. Isn't that absurdity just like Train? I suppose that paper will advocate Female Suffrage, Free Love, Miscegenation, Burglary, Arson, Spiritualism, Southern Superiority, and general compounding with sin on earth and repudiation of damnation hereafter. When they speak contemptuously of worthless, fussy people in England they call them baggage. They have applied this happy epithet to Train. So our blowing, shrieking, ranting lightning express has degenerated into a poor, homely inconsequential baggage-Train after all.
They report that this homely old friend of mine - this ancient denizen of California and Nevada - the wrinkled, aged, knock-kneed, ringboned and spavined old war-horse of the Plains is to be married shortly to a handsome young Ohio widow worth Three Hundred Thousand Dollars. Well. What is the world coming to, anyhow? If any man had told me a week ago that any woman in her right mind and under 70 would be willing to marry that old fossil! - that old tunnel - that old dilapidated quartz mill - I would never, never have believed it. He is a splendid man, you know, but then he must be as much as 92 or 93 years old. He is one of my nearest personal friends, but what of that? I would remain a bachelor a century before I would marry such a rusty, used up old arastra as he is. I have always considered that I ought to fairly expect to marry about seventeen thousand dollars, but I think differently now. If McCorkle ranges at three hundred thousand in the market, I will raise my margin to about a million and a half.
It is on hand again. Congress has said it is going to boss this Government, in spite of everything and everybody, and it is keeping its word. It has held its grip now for more than a month, without ever flinching. And so it is forcing from the people that respect which pluck always inspires, whether it be displayed by one man or a multitude. It has never given up its impeachment scheme, but foiled in one attempt it straightway essays another. The new bill, just introduced into the Senate by Mr. Edmunds, of Vermont, proposes to get rid of the obnoxious President on easy terms. It simply provides that when a civil officer is arraigned before the Senate on articles of impeachment preferred by the House, said officer shall be suspended from service pending the examination of his case. The examination of Mr. Johnson's case, so arraigned would never take place at all. He would remain harmlessly suspended until his duly elected successor arrived at the White House on the 4th of next March. It is specified in the bill that the army, if necessary, shall enforce such suspension. No one can tell, of course, what this measure may result in, but it is possible that through it Congress may yet gain its point and tie the hands of the President.
Has been nominated for U. S. District Judge for Nebraska, and henceforth will cease to decimate the Indians with his short rations. But he performed good service for his country while he remained in the Indian feeding department of the Government. He started out to unfit a couple of tribes for the war-path, and I think he must have done it, for no man has ever heard of them since. Works like those are bound to receive their reward at the hands of a grateful nation. He is a Judge, now (or rather, I trust he soon will be), and can rest upon his Indian laurels, and grant injunctions and hang people. It is good to be a Judge. The New York papers say Harry Worthington used to be a U. S. Senator from California - but I guess that is a mistake, isn't it? But New York papers don't know everything.
And speaking of Western people, I will mention that C. H. Webb ("Inigo") arrived here for a short sojourn to-day. He is going to do up fashions and such matters for Harper's Bazar and the Tribune, I hear. This town seems to me to be pretty well stocked with California newspaper men, and so is New York - and all at work, too, which is flattering, certainly, considering the number of idle pens there are. I am on the Tribune staff yet, and also on the regular staff of the New York Herald and likewise that of the Chicago Republican. I think the boys are all satisfied with their Eastern positions and with Eastern pay; and I am sure ought to be. They treat us houseless strangers well in the East. Thomas Nast, the clever artist of Harper's Weekly is exhibiting a collection of great caricatures of national subjects in New York and wants me to do the lecturing for his show. I would, if I hadn't so many irons in the fire. I would like it right well for a change, but then changes are risky. I must hunt around for a handsome Pacific coaster to take the berth - because I suppose it is personal loveliness Nast is after.
Mr. Hooper, delegate from Utah, is to have the seat in the House of Representatives contested by Mr. McGrorty. The papers in the case cover the whole ground of the legality of the government of that Territory as administered by the Mormons. This is said to furnish the first occasion for bringing the whole question of Mormon laws and authority properly before Congress. I suppose we may look for a general ventilation, now, of the happy civil and religious code which permits a man to marry a whole family, grandmother and all, if it is particularly fancy stock, or if he can't make up his mind which of the ladies he likes best.
Pardon Todds has been nominated for the post of Indian Agent of Utah. That is the homliest of all the homely Puritan names I have stumbled on yet, except that of famous Praise-God Barebone. How could a man write an obituary on Pardon Todds, if he died, without making it intensely funny? That man will never survive his mission. The Indians will put up with a good deal, but they will never put up with an Agent with a name like that. Toddy, you are going to get scalped. That is what is in store for you.
[photocopy available in Mark Twain Papers, University of California, Berkeley, CA]
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