Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 25.djvu/326

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822 Southern Historical Society Papers.

game, who afterwards became minister to China. While I was at Harvard I read the review of Judge Story's ' Commentary on the United States Constitution,' written by Judge Upshur, of Virginia. This book was the turning point in my political thought. Reflecting seriously on its spirit and teachings, I became a Democrat, and never once during the long line of sixty years that have nearly passed since then, have I swerved from its sacred principles. My family were all Whigs. Indeed, almost all the people of education and standing were Whigs in those days. The Democrats as yet, were little regarded, and one may imagine the feelings in my old and staunch Whig family, when I announced to them that I intended to forsake the political creed of my ancestors and that I was an out and out Democrat. My mother and father were bitterly opposed, but my conversion rested upon firm conviction in the undying principles of true Democracy. It was a remarkable book, that of Judge Up- shur's review. I have never seen the work since, though I have often tried to procure it. Judge Upshur was a very excellent scholar and a vigorous writer. He was killed during President Folk's ad- ministration, or Mr. Tyler's. The book was loaned to me while at Harvard by my fellow-student, Henry C. Semple, who, by the way, was the father of Rev. Father Semple, president of the Jesuit's Col- lege of this city. Henry C. Semple afterwards became a distin- guished lawyer of Montgomery, Alabama."

" I had the pleasure of seeing my whole family," continued Mr. Semmes, "converted some years later to the Democracy. When the so-called 'American Party ' was formed among the Whigs, and Catholic churches and schoolhouses were burned, my mother changed her political tenets, and said that she would never be identified with a party that was so 'un-American,' and which could so ruthlessly destroy the houses of God and education. She became an un- swerving Democrat, and converted my father to her views. The family followed, and we have all been Democrats ever since.

' ' I made my first political speech in behalf of the Democratic cause, at Georgetown, when Mr. Polk was a candidate for president. I am happy to say that that maiden effort won many to my side, though at that time my parents were still firm Whigs, and were hor- rified at one of their blood espousing the cause of the Democrats. But no truer Democrat ever lived than my dear old mother, as her subsequent life proved."

"When did you come to live in New Orleans?" asked the writer.