Visit of Edward Everett to New Bern in 1859
[From: The Daily Journal, October 1, 1882, quite damaged due to printing error; also New Berne Weekly Journal, October 5, 1882, poor quality microfilming caused the last column of the article to be too dark to read.]
Agreeably to promise, we will now give further particulars of the visit of the Honorable Edward Everett to this place in 1859. The following letters to the writer of this will need no explanation:
Wilmington, N.C., March 30, 1859
Wilmington, N.C., April 5, 1859.
At a meeting of the ladies of Newbern on Tuesday morning, April 5th, 1859, for the purpose of forming a Mount Vernon Association.
Newbern, April 7, 1859.
Wilmington, N.C., April 10, 1859
A committee of gentlemen, appointed by the ladies, went to Goldsboro and escorted Mr. Everett to Newbern. On the night of Tuesday the 12th, 1859, he delivered in the Baptist church which had been offered by its members, his celebrated Washington oration to a very brilliant audience. All the seats were sold, numbering over five hundred, at the price fixed by Col. Cowen. The introduction, by Judge Donnell, of the eminent visitor was neat and eloquent, and he expressed his gratification at his cordial reception before leaving Newbern and the distinguished attention paid him by our ladies and other citizens. We have already spoken of his stay among us, and I have before alluded to Mr. Everett and Judge Donnell leaving for Goldsboro with the writer of this. A train, elegantly fitted up through the courtesy and liberality of the Directors of the Atlantic and North Carolina Railroad, had been placed under the command of the committee to convey the eminent visitor to the end of their line. It was a warm, bright morning in the middle of April. We have before described it under the old cypress tree. Now more than three and twenty years have passed since Everett, the sage scholar and unrivaled orator, stepped on a car in the train, the station in Newbern, which, wheeling off at once from the broad Neuse, shot away towards the west from the rising sun, with the swiftness of the wind. Along the iron course, as direct as beams of light, we onward sped, till in the dizzy flight the ground and trees seemed turning, twisting, and whirling around us, while the rails behind us, over which we darted, were closing up to the eye as a single bar, and the ties on which they rested were running together and off in the distance, like the rapid unreeling of a narrow band. This high speed was attained at the solicitation of Mr. Everett, who, evidently enjoyed such riding more than some of his escort. Soon Kingston, I think it was first called, then Caswell, now Kinston, all one and the same town, not unlike the county in which it is situated, with its three different names at different periods in its history, first Johnston, then Dobbs, and lastly Lenoir, came in view. Afterwards, in almost an instant of time, we were there, then through it, and it was left behind us with the speed of a passing shadow of a flying cloud. Seemingly, three miles more in so many minutes, and we were resting at the crossing of a road and again along side of the Neuse. We had started from it miles back in the east and in its tortuous course had flitted over it below Kinston, and yet not one hour had elapsed. It had been arranged for Mr. Everett on his way to Raleigh to stop at the grave of Caswell. In a field near by, next to the river, a small circle of cedars, oaks and bushes told where, for more than three fourths of a century, peacefully reposed the ashes of the hero of the battle of Moore’s creek. After alighting a short walk carried us to the spot. No monument is there, still the warrior sleeps under the shadows of the stately cypress, rising out of the low grounds beside him, and lifting up high in mid air their scraggy tops, covered with fringe like leaves “trembling in the gentlest breath,” and hoary with clinging, drooping tags of moss, waving in every breeze, making fitting capitals to the venerable, living, growing columns which could count their centuries before the Star of Caswell rose above the horizon, though dumb, yet truthful sentinels, too, they are to direct the way of those who wish to worship at the patriot’s shrine. Therefore may ages more roll on ere the topple and fall and pass away. Judge Donnell remarked, “Mr. Everett, your presence here to-day reminds me of an incident in the life of Judge Gaston. I have heard him many times state that when on a visit once to Boston, he took the opportunity to visit at Quincy, your venerable and illustrious citizen, the elder Mr. Adams. In an interesting conversation with him respecting the distinguished men of the revolution, Mr. Adams asked: “Where is the family of Richard Caswell? Sir, Caswell was a man. We looked especially to Caswell for North Carolina.” Mr. Everett quickly replied, “As a like inquiry may be made of me by some of my people when I return home, I designed, at least to be able to state, and also to add I was at the patriot’s grave.” “Moreover,” he then observed, “In my judgment, it is wrong for the Southern States and people to prefer no monumental stone at all to a plain one for their great and distinguished dead. In Europe a different course is pursued altogether. If we could not get such a monument as our feelings would naturally prompt us to have, we should take such as could be readily obtained. Monuments deferred for any time, were not often set up even to the graves of eminent citizens. Our veneration, love and respect is not for the costly pile of sculptured stone, however much it may be admired as the work of genius and art. It is for the worthy dead, and simply where to find the dust is what we wish to know; it is to keep the memory of the public benefactors constantly before us and before posterity that their example may be followed and their patriotism and virtues emulated.” We soon turned and retraced our steps. The sun was now pouring down a stream of light on the burnished work and highly polished brazen jacket of the locomotive. It was as dazzling as the reflection of the sun’s rays in a mirror. Mr. Everett walking up, said: “It appears to me to be the brightest machine I ever beheld. It looks as if all in a glow. I see, too, it bears a most befitting name, that of William Gaston.” He further remarked, “I am particularly fond of machinery, and it always gratifies me to see it in motion. I could watch it for hours and days and for all time, without losing my interest in it. What a grand age we live in, as contrasted to all other ages in the history of the world. Why, we shall soon send messages around the globe as quickly as thought, and we can already visit from town to town, as in the country our fathers did from house to house, and we go from State to State as rapidly as they did from county to county.” It was stated that it was questionable whether in this day our happiness kept pace with our improvements, in many ways, over the days of our ancestors, when he rejoined: “But let I say, onward, onward be our march.” He then asked, “Are not the locomotives in this State unusually bright? I noticed some at Goldsboro, on the North Carolina road, when coming this way, that I thought to be so.” It was explained that perhaps the brass jacket or covering to the dome, which was then not common on engines, may have misled him in this respect.
Judge Donnell now invited his attention to the excellent portraits of Judge Gaston on either side of the cab before him. Mr. Everett gazed on them intently, for some moments, looking at first one then the other in silence. On the tender of the locomotive there were also two pretty good paintings, one representing a squaw in the act of raising a heavy burden, while a male Indian was passing along leisurely, with bow and arrow, without designing to give her the slightest assistance or notice. An Indian girl is also standing prominently in front to fill up the picture. The second, young America, a lad represented standing in a defiant position, overlooking a railroad, and wearing the stars and stripes in the triumph of a running train. The design of the artist was to represent the progress of the Europeans over the Aborigines of the country, civilization over barbarism. But spoke Judge Donnell mirthfully, “taking an old historian of North Carolina for authority, there was another side to this question.” According to his evidence the painter did not carry his comparisons sufficiently far, or make exactly a suitable one, to prove his impartiality and to do justice to the Indians. Our historian would doubtless have been for comparing Indian women with European women as from his writings, he was decidedly of the opinion that there were some traits in the Indian character we should imitate, if there were many in our own they should follow. The following is the paragraph referred to in this conversation. It is from the Natural History of North Carolina of John Breckell, M.D., published in 1743.
“The Indian women,” he says, “are never known to scold, and it is a thing impossible to hear them make use of that unruly member, the Tongue, with such Rage and Malice as our European Damsels are subject to, whom I could wish would set these Indians for a pattern, by which means there would be more Quietness and better Harmony in most Families than at present is to be met with, for when these Indian women are provoked by their Husbands, or other persons, they resent the Indignation offered them with Silence, Tears, or by refusing their Meat, these being always certain Signs that they have been injured and affronted.”
The capitals are given as printed in the history.
The old doctor undoubtedly had the experience of a married man, and could speak feelingly and knowingly on the subject.
During the delay and criticism around the beautiful and gaudy engine, it became apparently as full of riot as the high mettled course when stripped for the race. Louder and louder and still louder its mutterings and simmerings, until finally it could not be held under any longer, and the steam getting above our speech compelled the order to be given to go, and on to Goldsboro it swept as if on wings of a dragon. A committee from the citizens of Raleigh consisting of Mr. Badger, Mr. John H. Bryan and Mr. George Mordecai were already there, and taking possession of Mr. Everett immediately on his arrival, with the escort from Newbern, repaired to a room in the Grimswold Hotel to partake of refreshments. What a grand combination of diversified talent and experience for cabinets, for high courts, for presidents, or for any other position where learning, genius and wisdom are required. Were there Everett, the most learned scholar and accomplished man of his time; Badger, always shining, then as luminous as a blazing star; Bryan, cultivated, able and interesting, and brimful of mirth; Mordecai, a financier acute, as well as a lawyer, in the use of figures as quick as the most gifted, in the use of words, bright and honorable, high minded and charitable, under all circumstances; Donnell, talented if over courteous, and ever bold and fearless in the just administration of the law, in conversation, too, fascinating and charming, and even to the humblest, courteous and affable; “splendidly irregular” there were their talents; but like meteors, about and athwart the sky, if any singular, all were sublime. Such were the eminent citizens assembled in the same room, for the first and the last time. They have years before this all been gathered to their fathers, and not only in one State or two, but in the whole Union, they have left a void which cannot yet be filled. Not in years before had the old fellow townsmen, Judge Donnell, Mr. Bryan, and Judge Badger met, and their greeting was hearty, cordial and affectionate. It is said, “but once a youth, if twice a child”; but here again it was “Bryan,” “Badger” “Donnell.” No restraint, no formality whatever; school days when “Madam Birch” taught the young idea how to shoot, instead of “moral suasion,” were once more before them. Mr. Mordecai, though at first they could not long resist and stand aloof, so he threw in his experience. Mr. Everett’s school and college life would rise up, and cheerfully recall many of the scenes that he then passed through with pleasing anecdotes and interesting incidents. What an actor Judge Gaston would have made in such a play, and what a play it was with such characters to fill the parts. Who has witnessed greater on such a stage? Peter Brown, an eccentric and talented lawyer of Raleigh, was disentombed in [several words illegible in both copies]. Mr. Badger told of Col. Polk [illegible in both copies] patriot’s name brought out a question in regard to Gov. Caswell, when Mr. Badger, putting his hand on Mr. Bryan’s shoulder said, “Here is our historian of that section of the State, and he must answer it, I cannot.” That gentleman replied, “While I do not aspire to the honor my friend is disposed to confer upon me, not am I entitled to it, yet I will relate a matter connected with the Caswell family I think eminently deserving of notice. Being at Lenoir county court,” Mr. Bryan went on to say, “on one occasion, a client of mine came to me and stated he was in much trouble about a plantation he had purchased of Mr. John Gatlin, as, upon investigation he has ascertained the title was in his wife and as the deed was only signed by Gatlin himself he had obtained no right to it. The amount involved was considerable. It was not, however, supposed that, knowingly Gatlin would be a party to such a transaction. After consideration, it was deemed best that I should go and see Mrs. Gatlin, lay the facts before her, and propose a liberal sum for a good title. That I did, and after concluding my statement, made the proposition accordingly.” “No sir, no sir,” she replied, “under no circumstances, not one dollar would I take. I will confirm the sale made by my husband, and give you cheerfully any kind of title you want and will write. If he ever paid for the land I am satisfied.” “This noble decision,” he continued, “of this estimable lady, without a moment’s hesitation, when so situated that any amount coming to her, in what she conceived an honorable and just way, would have been no doubt, very acceptable, speaks more in her praise than any thing I could say of this noble woman. Mrs. Gatlin, I need not tell some of these gentlemen, was the daughter of Richard Caswell.” I will add here an anecdote characteristic of Mrs. Gatlin’s husband, related to me by W.G. Bryan, Esq., of our city. He once lived in Kinston, and was well acquainted with the parties to whom we shall refer. He states that when Dade’s command, with the exception of a single man, I believe that escaped, was massacred by the Indians in Florida, Dr. John Gatlin, a son of John Gatlin, and grandson of Governor Caswell, was in it as Surgeon, yet he fell with the foremost in the fight, musket in hand. The day the sad news reached his father it overpowered him with grief. In the midst of his lamentations, a gentleman, who was present to extend his sympathy, suggested, after all just such a death as the Doctor met with might have been expected, when it was remembered he had in him so much of the brave blood of Caswell. This remark entered as a compliment, was not so construed by the old gentleman, who, forgetting his sorrow for the time, and raising his portly form up to its full height, angrily exclaimed, “A repetition of such words reflecting upon me will quickly prove to you there was other blood in that gallant boy besides Caswell’s that would fight.”
The hands of the dial on the clock now turning to the hour fixed to separate, good feeling and undying remembrance by each one of these eminent men, Everett, Badger, Donnell, Bryan, and Mordecai, was pledged to the other, and in a few moments thereafter, they were divided and hurrying away in different directions never together for all of them to meet again in time.
It is proper here to state the writer of this has necessarily been compelled in giving the history of Mr. Everett’s visit to Newbern to repeat much of what he once before said on the subject. The proceedings of the meeting of the ladies in Newbern to receive Mr. Everett and the letters therewith connected, will be in print for the first time. D.