Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 25.djvu/36

This page needs to be proofread.

32 Sot'//'< rn Ilixtnrinil NorvV/y Papers.

voting" by general ticket and electing two members. He was elected, the sitting members declining to present themselves before the peo- ple, upon the claim that they were elected at the special election ordered by Governor Lynch, for two years, and not for the called session merely. Mr. Prentiss, with Mr. Word, his colleague, went on to Washington to claim his seat. He was admitted to the bar of the House to defend and assert his right. He then delivered that speech which took the House and the country by storm; an effort, which, if his fame rested upon it alone, for its manliness of tone, exquisite satire, gorgeous imagery and argumentative power, would have rendered his name imperishable. The House, opposed to him as it was in political sentiment, reversed its former judgment, which declared Gholson and Claiborne entitled to their seats, and divided equally on the question of admitting Prentiss and Word. The Speaker, however, gave the casting vote against the latter, and the election was referred back to the people.

" Mr. Prentiss addressed a circular to the voters of Mississippi, in which he announced his intention to canvass the State. The applause which greeted him at Washington, and which attended the speeches he was called upon to make in the north, came thundering back to his adopted State. His friends, and their name was legion, thought before that his talents were of the highest order, and when their judgments were thus confirmed when they received the endorse- ments of such men as Clay, Webster and Calhoun, they felt a kind of personal interest in himĀ ; he was their Prentiss. They had first discovered him first brought him out first proclaimed his great- ness. Their excitement knew no bounds. Political considerations, too, doubtless had their weight. The canvass opened it was less a canvass than an ovation. He went through the State, a herculean task, making speeches every day, except Sundays, in the sultry months of summer and fall. The people of all classes and both sexes turned out to hear him: He came, as he declared, less on his own errand than theirs, to vindicate a violated constitution, to rebuke the insult to the honor and sovereignty of the State, to uphold the sacred right of the people to elect their own rulers. The theme was worthy of the orator, the orator of the subject.

" This period may be considered the golden prime of the genius of Prentiss. His real effective greatness here attained its culminating point. He had the whole State for his audience, the honor of the State for his subject. He came well armed and well equipped for the warfare. Not content with challenging his competitors to the