A Reconstruction Letter

A Reconstruction Letter  (1866) 
by Edmund Clarence Stedman

New York: Privately printed pages 1-13




A Reconstruction Letter, Stedman, 1866, image from page 1.jpg

New York

One Hundred Copies, Octavo.

Bradstreet Press.

A Reconstruction Letter, Stedman, 1866, image 1 from page 3.jpg

From the "Tribune," Sept. 3d, 1866.

"Cataract House," Sunday, Sept. 2, 1866.

To the Hon. Th-rl-w W—d, Room No. 11 A-t-r H—se, New York.

At last we have got to the Falls,
And my horses may rest for a day in their stalls.
Thus far all's as smooth as your oiliest sentence,
Not a word has been said that can bring us repentance:
We've had a clear road and a sunshiny sky,
And every thing's lovely and the goose may hang high!
My team, well in hand, is so trained to its paces,
That our Radical friends haven't dared show their faces.
With A-dy and G-de-n for leaders, you know,
The one rough and restive, the other too slow,
And with Gr-nt and the Adm-r-l mated behind,
Both good, steady pullers (when drove with a blind),
I have sat on the box with the ribbons in hand,
And pushed them thus far on the journey we planned.
Years ago, my old tutor, when things weren't so thriving,
And you gave me first rules in political driving,
You hardly expected—and how could I dream?—
That I ever should happen to guide such a team!
Ere this you have learned how I handle the lash,
Of our York three-mile heat and our Albany dash;
How at Auburn I laid on a braid rather thick,
Put my thumb to my nose, and cried, like Saint Nick:
"Now, Adm-r-l! Now, Gr-nt! Now, G-de-n and A-dy!
On! R-ss-u, On! St-dm-n, On! C-st-r, my dandy!
We're off to Chicago: keep pace, large and small;
Now dash away, dash away, dash away all!"
As for A-dy, nigh-leader, I wouldn't, for double
His worth, to train him again take the trouble.
Betwixt you and me, he's of rather low breed
(A cross of Poor White with a Tennessee steed);
And so stubborn and tricky, so dogged and willful,
The groom who would guide him indeed must be skillful:
He's proud to the servant, but stoops to the master—
Just bid him go slower, he's sure to go faster;
He'll kick his own feeders, bolt shy of the course—
A regular chuck-headed, plebeian horse!
But I've broke him to saddle, and ride him each day,
And teach him his steps when the rest are away;
And in harness, so sure as there's virtue in leather,
We'll go to good luck, or the devil, together.
Dear me! times have changed since I went on this road,
With a cart-full of principles heaped for a load,
And on our white streamers our followers saw
"Irrepressible Conflict," or read "Higher Law."
Well, we're getting in years, but are never too old
To handle new ribbons or take a new hold:
"My Policy" now is the motto to win,
Make friends with all Rebels and let the South in;
To recant, there is always a way, where the will is—
Quote Tempora mutantur et S-w-rd in illis.
As to A-dy, I say, it's well for our game
Just to put him in training, and enter his name
For the National Sweepstakes, A.D. '68,
And to tickle his pasterns and keep his head straight.
He's the favorite, now, with the outsiders' ring—
The gamesters and trimmers and that sort of thing,—
But once we have made up our own little books,
And the jockeys grow tired of his manners and looks,
And the season draws near for the Washington Race,
We'll put up another, I guess, in his place:
Eh! Th-rl-w, old boy, the great Reconstructor
May one of these days learn to know his conductor,
When certain new methods and plans come to pass,
And this big stalking-horse finds he's turned out to grass!
But to drop tropes and figures and come to plain text,
Let's see what's been doing and what's to do next.
Of our progress thus far you know the whole story,
The speeches, the dinners, processions and glory.
Ere we left the Wh-te H—se (hearing A-dy rehearse
For the last time his lessons, page, chapter and verse,
And explaining in full every point that we'd planned he
Should make at each place), "Sir," said I to A-dy,
"Each man to his post; 'twere as well, I've been thinking,
That you do the talking, and I do the drinking—
I'm safer in that line than you"—just then Gr-nt
Came in with his puff, and his eye half askant,
And said, "That's all right; and if you'll do the joking
And hand-shaking business, why, I'll—do the smoking!"
So all was arranged; but thus far on the route,
It must be confessed, the people turn out
Quite as much to see Gr-nt and the Adm-r-l as we,
And don't cheer very loud for the Old Tennessee.
Now, speaking of Gr-nt, I'm sometimes uncertain
As to all he's concealing behind that thick curtain
Of smoke, and in doubt, as we speak from the car,
What he'll say when at last he puts out his cigar.
At Delmonico's, once, I made sure he'd have spoke,
But his widest mouth-opening ended in smoke;
Now, they say that I love an Havana (indeed,
Old comrade, you know how I cling to my Weed),
But for Grant—though he seems to have joined our fraternity,
With his smoke-begrimed beard and his strange taciturnity—
In the end, my dear friend, we should sing rather small
If the warrior-chief were outflanking us all!
Well, the rest have just crossed to the Canada side,
To see where the Fenians raided and died—
(I'm afraid that we missed it in stepping between
The blue-nosed provincials and bold Boys in Green.
Somehow, in the cheering that's just now in vogue,
We don't hear so much of that sweet Irish brogue)—
While I sit in my chamber, inditing this letter
To my trusty companion and ancient abettor.
Good-natured of Douglass to die as he did,
And to leave us of one of our rivals well rid,
With a handsome excuse for a lengthened oration
From the East to the West, at the cost of the Nation!
We'll go down to St. Louis, and come around home
By the grand Southern route, since all roads lead to Rome.
Things are turned: what a change from the future you'd fix on,
That I should be cheered South of Mason and Dixon.
Have they come to our side, or we shifted to them?
A delicate point—howsoever, ahem!—
We go in good company, since Brother B—ch-r
Bids fair to be Davis's favorite preacher:
'Twas a master-manœuvre—to make him speak out;
Since his letter to Cleveland he can't face about.
It was Walpole—himself, they say, not over-nice—
Who said, "All these people at last have their price;"
After this we may learn that they've bought Plymouth Rock,
And set it up South for an auctioneer's block,
From which, in the old Charleston mart, we shall hear
Of vagabond freedmen sold out by the year!
But, while we are stumping it all through the land,
You fellows at home have got plenty in hand:
Not just now at New York; for I'm not much afraid
The tradesmen will injure their dear Southern trade;
But I wonder what sort of Executive ditty
Little R-ym-nd will sing to his Union Committee.
And look to the Senate! Oh! yes, not to mention
The Loyalists' meeting in this week's convention.
You've got your hands full, and must deal out once more
The cards that we never so shuffled before.
Have your eye on the placemen, a close watch on Sm-the.
But I need not tell you how to handle the scythe,
Not you, who have cropped multitudinous heads,
And rolled men in and out of the National beds.
Keep a sharp eye on R-ym-nd; you know all his tricks,
How he's hopping around like the devil on sticks,
With his Rose in his button-hole, jaunty and neat,
And his horse in the Park and his friends on "the street."
Poor fellow, I fear that he'll want to shy off—he
Has all of the settlings and none of the coffee,
Meets the hand of one party, the boot of the other,
And still turns around like a man and a brother.
If the Loyalists' Meeting is much of a muster,
He'll be backing and filling, in spite of his bluster;
Just keep him whipped in, and, wherever you go,
Don't stay long away from the shop in Park Row.
But the dinner-bell's rung, says Ch-dw-ck, our steward,
So no more to-day from your own

B-lly S-w-rd.

P. S.—If you're reading, just try a few snatches
From my book, lately printed, of foreign dispatches;
I flatter myself they will go to posterity—
Historical models of terseness and verity.
P. S. Number 2.—A good joke on old W-ll-s,
Who sticks to his place like a fool's cap and bells:
When the knights of the needle, that queer delegation,
Surrounded the head of their craft and the nation,
Quoth a voice from the crowd, "Who's that jolly old owl?"
And another, "It must be a different fowl,
For you've noticed that, whether for show or for use,
Among so many tailors there must be one goose."

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1927. It may be copyrighted outside the U.S. (see Help:Public domain).