MR. VILLARD arrived in New York early in December, 1890. The North American Company had practically become insolvent by the suspension of Decker, Howell & Co., but actual bankruptcy had been avoided by the action of its principal creditors, who formed a committee which secured speedy repayment of the loans by a sale of the company's assets in the open market. He found the indebtedness of the company reduced to two millions, but it had been stripped, by the forced sales, of the great bulk of its assets at a heavy loss, and was prostrate and reduced to inactivity for years to come. There was really nothing for him to do but to try and keep alive what little there was left of the concern. He was not surprised to find that the collapse of the North American had affected his prestige hardly less than the crisis of 1883. His absence in Europe left him free from all responsibility for the new catastrophe, but he suffered just as much abuse as though he had been directly instrumental in bringing on the disaster, instead of having strained every nerve to save the company. This second breakdown utterly disheartened him, and he made up his mind then to resign all his corporate positions and absolutely retire from all business pursuits just as soon as possible. He was confirmed in this resolve by his conviction that the operation of the Sherman law would before long plunge the whole country into general disaster, and he determined to protect not only himself but also his German friends from the coming calamity. He addressed to them a letter in January, 1891, stating fully the reasons for his fears of the early advent of the silver standard, advising and urging them to abstain from all long engagements, and to keep their investments in the United States in as liquid a form as possible. He gave them formal notice at the same time that, holding his opinion of a rapid approach to the silver standard, he could no longer take any responsibility for the investment of German capital in this country, and hence should consider their business relations as terminated. The letter was looked upon at the time as exaggerated, but after the crisis of 1893 had set in he was often complimented on having written it.
The Northern Pacific had securely passed through the months of stress before his return, but, as its position would be rendered much safer by turning its short loans into long loans, Mr. Villard set about accomplishing this, and succeeded in forming an international syndicate for that purpose. By the end of February, all he could do for the several corporations having been consummated, he rejoined his family at Cannes late in March, remaining in Europe until midsummer, and was not further disturbed by untoward developments, nor did any such take place after his return. On the contrary, the Northern Pacific continued to show increasing strength right along. Its gross and net earnings for the year 1890–91 were respectively $25,151,544.09 and $10,211,141.91, being the best showing since the completion of the main line, and more than double the gross, and nearly double the net, of the year 1884–85. On the 27th and 28th of April, Mr. Villard and his family, with the exception of his younger son, were in Zweibrücken, to lay the corner-stone of an orphan asylum that was to be Mr. Villard's memorial to his lost boy.In the fall of 1891, accompanied by his wife, he made what he meant and what proved to be his last official tour of inspection of the main line and principal branches of the Northern Pacific. He was everywhere very well received, and invited to address public bodies at different points on
the business situation of the country, much as in former years. In his speeches, as well as in published interviews, he did not hesitate to warn his audiences, in the strongest language, of the evil fruits the Sherman law was certain to bear. He told them that the blackest clouds were gathering fast, and would burst before long and sweep like a devastating tornado over the whole land, and exhorted them to put their houses in order, and especially to keep out of debt and new ventures, and prepare for the worst. From St. Paul to Tacoma and Portland, he got nothing for his pains except newspaper ridicule of him as a croaker and pessimist, and not a little abuse in the centres of silver sentiment. But he had the doubtful satisfaction, after the catastrophe of 1893, of being told by a number of his hearers that his predictions had proved but too true, and that they paid dearly for not having followed his advice. Scores of his acquaintances, among them the wealthiest men in St. Paul and Minneapolis and in the Pacific coast cities, were actually impoverished.
The journey depressed him not only because of the popular silver hallucination, but also because of his observation of ominous factors in the Northern Pacific situation. First and most threatening of all was the loss of business by the competition of the Great Northern line to Spokane. There was also the paralyzing effect of the great fires at Spokane and Seattle. The decline of silver production in Montana and the Cœur d'Alène regions in consequence of the steady depreciation of that metal in the market also portended more and more loss of traffic. But the most alarming impression of all made upon him was the revelation of the weight of the load that had been put upon the company by the purchase and construction of the longer branch lines in Montana and Washington, which he then discovered for the first time. There was the Missoula Branch to the Cœur d'Alène mines; the Cœur d'Alène Railway & Navigation, a mixed system of steamboats and rail lines; the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern; and the roads built into westernmost Washington, representing a total investment in cash and bonds of not far from $30,000,000, which together hardly earned operating expenses. The acquisition and building of these disappointing lines had in a few years absorbed the large amount of consolidated bonds set aside for construction purposes, which had been assumed to be sufficient for all needs in that direction for a long time. Under these circumstances, Mr. Villard came back to New York with increased apprehension as to the future of the Northern Pacific.
In his mind, there was but one way of saving the country and the road from a ruinous catastrophe, viz., by the earliest possible repeal of the Sherman Act, and the election of a President in 1892 who could be relied upon to exert executive influence for the repeal of the Act as well as for the establishment of the gold standard. All through the winter of 1891 and 1892, he devoted most of his time and his best energy to the pursuit of those two aims. He made several stays in Washington, and by incessant efforts with the leaders of both parties helped to bring about the introduction, reference, and report to the House of a repeal bill which failed to pass by only a few votes, owing to the jealousy entertained by certain Western Republican members towards Speaker Reed, who favored the measure. Mr. Villard had obtained promises from nearly two dozen New York political leaders, lawyers, and financiers to respond at any time to a summons from him to Washington to bring their personal influence to bear upon members in favor of the repeal. Of all these prominent men only one—Mr. William Brookfield—kept his word and appeared; so little even then did the elite of the professional and business community recognize the perils of the situation.
Although Mr. Villard had always taken an active interest in civil-service and tariff reform for he had belonged to the Manchester School ever since he had read Adam Smith, Bastiat, and John Stuart Mill he had never had anything to do with active party politics. His resolution to do all in his power for the election of a sound-money and tariff-reform candidate now drew him against his wish into the political whirlpool. The force of circumstances turned him, indeed, for a time, into a hard-working politician. Benjamin Harrison having signed both the first McKinley tariff bill and the Sherman bill (the price paid by the protectionists for the former's passage through the Senate), his candidacy for reelection called for the most earnest opposition. The whole Republican party was so impregnated with protectionism and silverism that there was not the remotest hope for salvation from that quarter. Only a Democrat, entirely sound on what seemed to Mr. Villard to be the two main issues, could meet the emergency. The record of Grover Cleveland pointed to him as the only available Democrat. There was, however, great opposition to him among the professional politicians of his own party, and most of them looked upon United States Senator D. B. Hill (who early in 1892 was receiving ovations in the South) as the rising star. It seemed, indeed, hopeless to renominate Mr. Cleveland, but Mr. Villard decided to try it. He first sounded Mr. Cleveland, and found him very reluctant to become a candidate, and obtained his consent to allow the use of his name only after several interviews. His next step was to win over the leading Democratic Congressmen to his plan. He went to Washington, and induced Speaker Carlisle to invite them to meet him at his house, and twenty-eight responded. Mr. Villard explained to them at length, and as forcibly as he could, the reasons for his conviction that the needs of the times called for the candidacy of Mr. Cleveland, and that he was the only Democrat who could be elected. Mr. Carlisle and William L. Wilson followed, expressing their full agreement with his views, while others expressed the belief that it was impossible to secure Cleveland's nomination, as Senator Hill was all but certain of being presented as the candidate of the Democracy of his own State to the nominating convention. Mr. Villard then announced that he and the other Independents and Democrats who were opposed to the machine controlling the Democratic organization of New York, would bring Mr. Cleveland forward at the national convention in spite of Hill's candidacy, and were confident of his nomination. Most of those present received this confident assertion with smiles, but it was made good to the letter.
Mr. Villard gave up most of his time during the Presidential canvass to campaign work at the National Democratic headquarters in New York, in conjunction with Don M. Dickinson, William C. Whitney, Josiah Quincy, and others. He raised money for the executive committee, and organized and conducted a German-American Cleveland Union with ramifications throughout the States. A few days after the election, he gave a large dinner-party to the President-elect and leading Independents and Democrats from all parts of the country. In his opening speech, he complimented Mr. Cleveland on his great triumph, and expressed his firm faith that the new Administration would meet the highest expectations of its supporters. He added that Mr. Cleveland was vouchsafed the finest opportunity since Washington and Lincoln of bestowing great benefits upon the Republic by insisting upon currency and tariff reform, which he would surely do much to further. Mr. Cleveland replied in what was generally said to be the most feeling utterance that he had ever made, and which moved the gathering deeply. The other speeches were also pitched in a very high key. The occasion attracted general attention, and the press immediately teemed with stories that Mr. Villard was to be a member of the new Cabinet, and otherwise play an important part under the new regime. The truth was that he had taken occasion to notify Mr. Cleveland immediately after his election that all he asked was leave to discuss pending public issues freely with him, which was readily granted and exercised up to the inauguration. The President-elect consulted him regarding Cabinet and high diplomatic appointments, but he confined himself to urging Mr. Cleveland persistently, all through the winter, to call an extra session of Congress immediately after March 4, for the repeal of the Sherman law, and to make his intention to do so known without delay. For he perceived clearly the portentous signs of a financial hurricane, and felt sure that if it came without an effort on the part of the new administration to prevent it through Congressional action, Mr. Cleveland would be held responsible for it, and its ravages would make the success of his administration impossible. He told Mr. Cleveland many times that, if he rode into power on the eve of a panic, nothing could save him from failure.
His efforts to persuade the President to call an extra session were faithfully seconded by other close friends, and by none more so than by Don M. Dickinson, of Michigan. One morning in February, the latter came into his office with a beaming countenance, waving a piece of paper and exclaiming: "We are all right now." He had spent the night with Mr. Cleveland at Lakewood, and, after hours of argument, got him finally to agree to the extra session. The paper contained the announcement in Mr. Cleveland's own handwriting that the President-elect had decided to call an extra session directly after his inauguration, for the repeal of the silver-purchasing act, and that members of Congress might take notice that appointments for office would not be considered by the Executive until they had done their duty and abolished the obnoxious law. The announcement was to be made in the afternoon papers. Mr. Villard was overjoyed, and at once telephoned the glad news to a number of friends. In less than an hour, he was obliged to recall it in consequence of the reappearance of Mr. Dickinson with the disappointing message from Mr. Cleveland that he had changed his mind and would do nothing before the 4th of March. Some other friends, who were opposed to an extra session, had talked him out of his purpose in the meantime. When it seemed impossible in January, 1893, to overcome Mr. Cleveland's reluctance to summon an extra session, Mr. Villard and Don M. Dickinson got the President's consent, indicated by letters from him to leading Democratic members, to try to secure the repeal of the Sherman Act by the expiring Congress. They labored hard to this end for some weeks in Washington, and got the Democratic side ready for action, but the attempt failed on account of the unwillingness of certain influential Republicans to smooth the way for the incoming administration. Mr. Villard spent the last afternoon with the President-elect before his departure for Washington, and made a last plea for an extra session. But hours of talk only resulted in an invitation to come to Washington to repeat his arguments to the new Cabinet, and a promise that, if it voted in favor of an extra session, one should be summoned at once. He did as desired, witnessed the inauguration, and met all the Cabinet members except Mr. Olney in a parlor at the Arlington House. He presented his case as strongly as he could, but in the discussion that ensued after he had made his argument, it became evident that only the Secretary of Agriculture was unconditionally for the gold standard, and that the rest either were bimetallists or did not understand the subject sufficiently to express an opinion. So, the next morning, he told Mr. Cleveland he was satisfied that the Cabinet would vote against an extra session, and therefore he considered his mission ended and should go home. Once more, he had the sorry satisfaction of seeing all he had feared and prophesied as to the impending panic and its effect upon the fate of Mr. Cleveland's administration come to pass.
The campaign work in 1892 and Mr. Villard's labors for the gold standard withdrew him so much from his corporate duties that he felt their burden but lightly. This led him to postpone his intended retirement from his executive positions; but early in 1893 he announced his settled purpose to resign them. The last thing he did as chairman of the Northern Pacific was to devise a collateral trust mortgage for funding the floating debt, of which he himself held a large part. His formal resignation was accepted by the Northern Pacific board only at its meeting on June 21, 1893, to take effect on July 19, when, as on his first retirement, his services to the company were acknowledged by the passage of a gratifying series of resolutions. His resignation from the North American board was accepted only in June, 1893.
He was fully conscious that, in obtaining this release from official cares, he did not free himself from the heavy burden of anxiety with which the growing certainty of a catastrophe to the Northern Pacific oppressed him. The accelerated decline in the earnings, the increasing paralysis of silver-mining, and the fast-spreading stagnation of general business, convinced him that the breakdown of the company would come inevitably with the general crisis which he expected would befall the country in 1893. It was perfectly clear to him, too, that the collapse of that company would again mean for himself discredit, calumny, and abuse. It seemed a hard fate indeed that he should have to pass twice through the same ordeal and receive such severe punishment for once more loyally uniting his personal fortunes with the same ill-starred company. Considering default unavoidable, he advised making it as early as April, but the officers still believed in the possibility of early recuperation and managed to pay the April coupon. Early in 1893, a new temporary occupation fell to his lot which proved far more arduous, while it lasted, than he had anticipated when he accepted it. On his motion, the Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York appointed a committee, of which he was chosen chairman, to make suitable provision for the proper entertainment in New York of the foreigners who had been invited by the United States Government as guests of the nation in connection with the Columbian World's Fair. They included the Princess Eulalia, as the representative of the Queen of Spain, and the Duke of Veragua, a lineal descendant of Columbus, and family, and the officers of foreign squadrons that participated in the great international review in New York harbor. On entering upon his duties, he discovered that, although Congress at its first session had extended formal invitations in the name of the nation, which had been accepted, no appropriations for the expense of entertaining the guests had been made. As the Democrats were to assume power both in the Government and in Congress in March, the appropriation committees, controlled by Republicans, apparently out of sheer partisan spite were doing nothing to enable the new administration to redeem the pledge of hospitality made by its predecessor. Mr. Villard called the attention of Mr. Cleveland to the awkward predicament in which his Government would be placed by being left without money to take care of the guests of the nation. At Mr. Cleveland's request, he went to Washington with letters from the latter to prevent such a disgrace. He begged Secretary of State Foster to remind the appropriation committee of the urgency of the matter, which Mr. Foster did; and also exerted himself personally with the committee. But the shortness of time, and political prejudice, prevented any action, and Congress actually adjourned without having voted a dollar, so that the new administration had only the contingent fund of the State Department, really intended for other objects, to draw from for the purpose. Mr. Villard bethought himself of two ways of avoiding an international scandal, viz., the raising of a considerable fund by private subscriptions, and the financial help of the City of New York. The former he successfully undertook himself, and the latter was obtained to the extent of $100,000, with the help of some Democratic friends who engineered the necessary special act through the State Legislature in the nick of time. Thus the expense of the great street parade, the banquet at the Waldorf, the ball at the Madison Square Garden, and the other entertainments was provided for. As is usually the case on such occasions, the chief burden of responsibility fell upon the chairman, and he literally had to labor day and night for weeks to prevent the failure of the programme which he had proposed. One thing he was taught very thoroughly by this experience, viz., that Americans, however hospitably inclined they may be, do not care to bother with foreigners who do not speak their own language.
Mr. Villard went to Chicago to see the World's Fair. He was filled with the greatest admiration for this marvellous achievement of American genius, which had never been equalled before and, in his opinion, never would be thereafter. For weeks he spent every day and many evenings in the Exposition grounds, without being satiated by their great attractions; but his stay was terminated by an urgent summons to New York, in the middle of June, from the Northern Pacific's president, to which he responded at once. As he anticipated, the occasion was the question of the payment of the July coupon. The panic had in the meantime broken out in full force in Wall Street and throughout the country. There was a very tight money market, and extraordinary commissions—at rates often exceeding one hundred per cent.—were charged for loans. Mr. Villard argued against the payment, which could be made only by borrowing a large part of the required amount at a heavy extra cost, as only a short makeshift, but he was not heeded, and the payment of the coupon began with little over one half of the $1,500,000 needed in hand. As was to be foreseen, default was postponed for only a few weeks, and, by mid-August, receivers were appointed for the whole system.
The Deutsche Bank, which had placed in Germany the bulk of the junior bonds most to be affected by the suspension of interest payments, was morally bound to do its utmost for the protection of the holders. As Mr. Villard shared in its responsibility, he deemed it his duty to do all in his power to bring about the appointment of receivers whose character and experience offered a guarantee that the company would be extricated from its difficulties as early as possible; and in this he was successful. The importance of an immediate and effective organization of the majority of the bondholders in Germany under the guidance of the Bank was also perceived by him, and with the timely cabled notice to the institution of the inevitable default he sent an urgent appeal to lose no time in forming a strong and friendly committee, which should at once send a delegation with full power to this country, with a view to the formation of an American committtee willing to cooperate with the German. These recommendations were promptly acted on, and, in October, the delegation, headed by Dr. Georg Siemens, the principal director of the Bank, arrived in New York. The first thing Mr. Villard had to do was to demand a formal revocation of and an apology for an offensive circular issued by the Bank in hot haste to the bondholders, full of glaring misstatements, unjust criticism of the railroad management, and an evident attempt to make a scapegoat of himself. This was conceded, and the correction given even wider publicity in Germany than the circular. Mr. Villard informed the delegates, after he had fully posted them concerning the situation and the measures it called for, and initiated the organization of an American committee, that, having done all that was possible for him to do in the interest of the bondholders, he should withdraw altogether from Northern Pacific affairs and go abroad for several years. The delegation was much taken aback by this announcement, protested against his purpose, and insisted that he must remain in the country and take an active part in the reorganization of the company. He replied, however, that, owing to his failure in 1883 and the present crisis, his usefulness as a financial adviser and leader was obviously entirely gone, and that it was his firm belief that, in view of the bitter attacks upon him which had already begun, it would positively injure the work of the committees if he played a leading part in it.
After some exciting scenes, his proposed course was approved, provided a proper substitute for him could be found who would serve as chairman of the American committee of bondholders, and constitute the connecting link between the latter and the German committee and also act as confidential adviser to the Bank. He recommended Edward D. Adams, and, after some delay, the delegates voted to authorize him to offer the position to the man of his choice. Mr. Adams hesitated at first, but was finally persuaded to accept. The main share which he had in the extraordinary success of the reorganization of the company made a splendid record for him, and the managers of the Bank subsequently expressed to Mr. Villard at Berlin their great sense of obligation to him for having recommended Mr. Adams. The outcome of the reorganization was such that none of the holders of the company's securities, who held on to them, lost anything in the end. This result compensated Mr. Villard for the personal annoyances which, as he had foreseen, grew out of the Northern Pacific collapse. As men with similar experiences necessarily do, he made a number of bitter enemies, who then saw their opportunity for revenge. He and his associates in the formation of the Chicago & Northern Pacific Railroad (Terminal) Company were charged in the press with having made millions for themselves out of it, and a small stockholder was even procured to bring suit for the recovery of these alleged ill-gotten gains. In his answer to the bill of complaint, Mr. Villard made an absolute denial of every one of the charges, and so completely that no further move was ever made in the case.
He sailed with his family, except the elder son, in November, 1893, direct for Gibraltar. The party first travelled in Spain and then passed over to northern Africa. They visited Melilla, Oran, Blida, Algiers, Philippeville, Constantine, Biskra, the famous oasis in the Sahara; and reached Tunis by the middle of January, 1894. Thence they crossed to Sicily, and, at the end of the month, took steamer at Naples for Egypt, where they spent two months, during which they made the usual tour of the Nile. From Egypt they went to Greece and thence to Constantinople. In April, they reached Vienna, where their stay was somewhat protracted. The summer was spent in the Austrian Tyrol, on Lake Constance, and in Central Switzerland and on Lake Geneva. In October, the rest of the family went to Italy over the Mont Cenis, and visited the principal places from Turin to Naples. While in Florence, in the first week in December, Mr. Villard received a letter from his associate in the Northern Pacific management, Thomas F. Oakes, one of the three receivers, advising him of his arrival in Paris and his desire for a meeting with him. It was decided that Mr. Villard should proceed thither.
Since Mr. Villard's departure, developments had taken place in Northern Pacific affairs which affected him personally, and regarding which it was very desirable he should learn more details than he had received while travelling. Control of the Northern Pacific had been obtained, at the annual election held after the appointment of receivers, by parties bitterly hostile to the former management. They brought about the filing, early in 1894 in the United States Circuit Court, which had appointed the receivers, of a series of charges against Mr. Oakes and Mr. Villard, accusing them of having derived large personal profits out of the construction of certain branch lines, and moved for an investigation. This the court granted, without giving Mr. Villard an opportunity to be heard, and appointed a master to take testimony.
Mr. Villard heard of this only after arriving in Vienna, and he immediately by cable and by letter asked to be summoned by the master, but no summons ever reached him. Instead of the naturally expected report against further proceedings, to Mr. Villard's great surprise and indignation he learned in Switzerland that the master had exonerated Mr. Oakes, but recommended that the court order a suit to be brought against Mr. Villard for the recovery of alleged illegitimate profits in connection with the building of the Northern Pacific & Manitoba branch line to Winnipeg. It was assumed that the court would order the suit, and it was regarding this trouble that he wished to confer with Mr. Oakes.
He rejoined his family at Munich on his return from Switzerland on December 17. His sister and her husband resided there, together with several other relatives and a large circle of old personal friends. Mr. Villard had caused the receivers to be informed that he was ready to return and respond at any time to any summons in any suit against him, and in answer had received official information that they had been ordered to bring suit, but thought it proper to call on him first for certain explanations. He concluded to respond to this in person, and was able to notify the receivers early in May, 1895, that he was back and held himself at their disposal. Some correspondence with the receivers followed, but nothing further was done in the case until the following winter, when the court renewed its order to bring suit, which was then commenced. But the suit never passed beyond the first stage—that is, the filing of the complaint and the defendant's answer. The case remained there until after the completion of the reorganization of the Northern Pacific Company and the discharge of the receivers. Mr. Villard received then the fullest possible vindication by a dismissal of the suit without his solicitation, and a certification from the principal conductors of the reorganization, E. D. Adams, Francis Lynde Stetson and C. H. Coster, that no evidence whatever had been found to sustain the charges against him. This is the place in which to mention also that it was proved, through a most searching investigation of the Northern Pacific accounts made by order of the court, that not a dollar of the corporate funds had ever been improperly used.
When Mr. Villard announced his settled determination before his departure for Europe in 1893 to withdraw from all business pursuits, most of his friends did not believe that a man accustomed to such extraordinary activity could be content to live in retirement. These sceptics expected him to resume his role in Wall Street upon his return in 1895. But they did not know the man. Although he kept a small office in the financial quarter, and retained his interests as a security-holder in the North American Company and some other corporations in which he had been interested for years, he resolutely declined to become again responsible for their management as director or officer. He was always found ready, however, to help them with money and advice. He had three reasons for this retirement: one was his growing deafness, and a second one his unwillingness, in the light of past lessons of ingratitude from others, ever again to be responsible for the use of other people's money, directly or indirectly. The third reason was the sacrifices he had made as a consequence of his practice, out of kindness and generosity, to assist inexperienced relatives and friends of both sexes in their investments. He always looked upon advice given to such as involving a moral obligation, and never shrank from the personal consequences of this view, as is proved by the fact that he made good losses to numerous sufferers from his counsel, to the extent of hundreds of thousands of dollars, especially from losses in Northern Pacific bonds.
He was rendered proof against Wall Street temptations by another fact. In spite of his all-absorbing material occupations for so long a period, he had never lost his preference for a life devoted to what he considered higher and nobler objects, such as he had followed before he became a business man. With the attainment of freedom from all obligations to others, this feeling grew stronger, and he not only never had a moment's regret because of the obscurity which he had deliberately sought, but he rendered thanks every day for the abundance of leisure it had secured him for extensive reading, literary labor, reform work, and the philosophic contemplation of the momentous events following each other so rapidly in our time.
He had chosen two fields for literary occupation. One he had entered upon long before his withdrawal from business life. Nearly twenty years before, during periods of rest, he began to write his personal memoirs. As soon as he had command of his time, from the summer of 1895 till the winter of 1899-1900, when his health began to be seriously affected, he devoted himself steadily to their preparation. As a means of reviving and fixing his recollections as a war correspondent, he made a careful study of the Official War Records so far as they related to the campaigns of the Civil War on land and sea which he had witnessed. This work proved very fascinating to him, as the Government publications contained the documentary history of the operations not only of the Northern but also of the Confederate armies. It revealed to him for the first time the whole, instead of but one side, of the bloody pictures of the battle-fields of the great struggle. He found it most absorbing work to test the accuracy of the statements of the loyal commanders by those made by their antagonists, and to unite their separate accounts into one complete, consistent, and comprehensible description. The flood of new light radiating from this double source led him to enlarge the scope of the narrative of his own observations of the great collisions of the war into full battle descriptions. He was untiring in the collation, sifting, and testing of his material from all available sources, and took the greatest pains to be impartial and accurate. It required many months to bring some of his battle stories into a shape that satisfied him. When he was obliged to stop work, he had got no further than the second day's fighting at Chattanooga. The next subjects would have been Grant's battles in the Wilderness and the siege of Petersburg. He was very anxious to describe these later episodes, and had revisited both scenes in 1897, going over the ground carefully with the Official Records and accounts of war historians in hand.
His other literary scheme was to write a history of the Franco-German war of 1870–71. He had for some years employed two young German historians, trained by Professor von Sybel, to collect material for him, but gave up the project on finding that the French material procurable was altogether too scanty for as full and accurate a history of the part played by the vanquished as the abundant German sources permitted to be written of the part of the victors.
Although he was no longer a working participant in current affairs, it was not in his nature to be simply an indifferent observer of passing events. His sympathies were moved as quickly and deeply as ever by all good causes, and his indignation stirred as readily by public and private wrongs. It remained a standing grief to him, as a free trader, that the prospect of tariff reform had grown so apparently hopeless in these latter years. The thought that, through his instrumentality, it was rendered possible to wage an incessant war against public abuses of every kind through the Evening Post's relentless championship of political reform, was a source of just pride to him; but it did not surprise him that praise of this championship was followed by denunciation when the Evening Post had to oppose popular delusions, as in the case of the unjust war against Spain. That national frenzy roused his strongest antagonism, for he clearly foresaw all the moral decadence, all the blighting effect upon all reformatory movements, which that fatal aberration was certain to bring in its train. He and his wife could not stand the war-racket which broke out in the spring of 1898, and went to Europe, not returning until after the conclusion of peace.
With the exception of this absence, Mr. Villard passed his winters with his family in their apartment in New York, and his summers at their beautiful country-seat at Dobbs Ferry, on the Hudson, until the summer of 1899, when he made what he felt to be his last tour over the Northern Pacific system. The journey was extended to Alaska, which, though the Oregon Steamship Company had opened commercial intercourse with it under his original administration, he had never found time to visit. As he had not been over the road for eight years, he was prepared to be, if not forgotten, at least only slightly remembered. It was therefore an agreeable revelation to him to find that he and his work were well remembered all the way from the Lakes to the Pacific Northwest. He was heartily welcomed everywhere and by all classes, and met a great number of old acquaintances. The most pleasing reception given to him was at Eugene City at the State University of Oregon, of which he had been a benefactor. It interested him, of course, very much to compare what Oregon and Washington were when he first made his advent on the coast twenty-five years before, with their present stage of development. The two Territories in 1874 had together a population of only 100,000; now each of the two States claimed about half a million. Portland's had risen from 15,000 to 90,000, Tacoma's from 5,000 to 45,000, Seattle's from 6,000 to 65,000, and Spokane's from a few hundred to 40,000. Marvellous changes in one-third the length of a human life!
Mr. Villard was of such a fine physique that he was generally supposed to enjoy perfect health, which was not, however, the case. He had been for more than thirty years troubled with rheumatism and gout, and had passed through several dangerous diseases. After 1896, he had some attacks of heart disease and a slight apoplectic stroke. His real decline began in 1899.
No American citizen of foreign birth could have had a higher appreciation than Mr. Villard of the privileges of American citizenship, and of the incomparable advantages arising from the free play of the human faculties enjoyed in this country. He never forgot that he was himself a living illustration of the benefits of these conditions, and never failed to acknowledge his indebtedness to them. Yet, with all his faithfulness and gratitude to his adopted country, he also remained loyal to the land of his birth. Notwithstanding his residence of nearly half a century in the United States and all the American infiltration and engrafting he underwent in that long time, he always remained and was proud to be a true German. He sought to have his native language acquired by all the members of his family, and to make them personally acquainted with his relatives and friends in the Fatherland. The family altogether lived nearly twelve years at different times in Germany, and Mr. Villard visited his native province on an average every two years. He considered it a sacred duty to do all he could for the welfare of his countrymen in America, and for the promotion of close friendly relations between the two countries. He enjoyed the personal friendship and confidence of all the diplomatic representatives of Germany in the United States from the days of Lincoln, and was ever ready to give them the benefit of his long and varied experience and wide acquaintance on this side of the water. He always believed that the two countries ought to know more of each other's special characteristics, and this induced him to provide for sending thirty-three young German artisans, artists, and literati to the World's Fair at Chicago in 1893. The same motives led
him to entertain at Thorwood the officers of the German squadron that was ordered over to join in the international naval review in the spring of that year.
END OF SECOND AND LAST VOLUME.
- Mr. Villard died at Thorwood, November 12, 1900.