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dent's room continued closed, except when some favored indi. vidual, who had sent in his card, perhaps hours before, was admitted, I was more than once on the point of abandoning my object for a breath of fresh out-door air.
The conversation of my Southern friends, however, proved sufficiently interesting to detain me. One gay and jaunty old man was particularly diverting in his remarks. He laughed at the melancholy ones for their long faces, pretending that he could tell by each man's looks which clause of the exceptions, in the President's amnesty proclamation, his case came under.
"You were a civil officer under the Confederate government. Am I right? Of course I am. Your face shows it. My other friend here comes under No. 3, — he was an officer in the army. That sad old gentleman yonder, with a standing collar, looks to me like one of those who left their homes within the jurisdiction of the United States to aid the Rebellion. He's a number ten-er. And I reckon we are all thirteen-ers," - that is to say, persons of the thirteenth excepted class, the value of whose taxable property exceeded twenty thousand dollars.
“Well, which clause do you come under ?” asked one.
"I am happy to say, I come under three different clauses. Mine 's a particularly beautiful case. I've been here every day for a week waiting on the President, and I expect to have the pleasure of standing at this door many a day to come. Take example by me, and never despair.” And the merry old man frisked away, with his cap slightly on one side, covering gray hairs. His gay spirits, in that not very hilarious throng, attracted a good deal of attention : but his was not the mirth of an inwardly happy mind.
"You are not a Southern man ? ” said one, singling me out. "No," said I ; "I am a Yankee.” "You are not after a pardon, then. Lucky for you!” “What have you done to be pardoned for?" I asked.'
"I am worth over twenty thousand dollars; that's my difficulty."
“And you aided the Rebellion?”
“Of course,” – laughing. “Look here!” — his manner changed, and his bright dark eye looked at me keenly,—“what do you Northerners, you Massachusetts men particularly, expect to do now with the niggers ?”
“We intend to make useful and industrious citizens of them."
“ You can't!” “You never can do that!” “That's an absurdity!” exclaimed three or four voices; and immediately I found myself surrounded by a group eager to discuss that question.
" The nigger, once he's free, won't work!”
"I pity the poor niggers, after what you 've done for him," said a third. “They can't take care of themselves; they 'll starve before they 'll work, unless driven to it; and in a little while they 'll be exterminated, just like the Indians.”
"I don't think so," said I. “ The negro is very much like the rest of us, in many respects. He won't work unless he is obliged to. Neither will you. So don't blame him. But when he finds work a necessity, that will drive him to it more surely than any master.”
“You Northerners know nothing of the negro; you should see him on our plantations!”
“I intend to do so. In the mean time you should see him in our Northern cities, where he takes care of himself very well, supports his family, and proves an average good citizen. You should look into the affairs of the Freedmén's Bureau, here in Washington. There are in this city and its vicinity upwards of thirty thousand colored people. The majority have been suddenly swept into the department from their homes by the chances of war. You would consequently expect to find a vast number of paupers among them. But, on the contrary, nearly all are industrious and self-supporting; only about three hundred of the number receiving partial support from the government. Now take my advice: give your negroes a chance, and see what they will do."
APPEARANCE OF THE PRESIDENT. 79 “We do give them all the chance they can bave. And it's for our interest to induce them to work. We are dependent on labor; we are going to ruin as fast as possible for want of it. In the course of eight or ten years, maybe, they will begin to find out that everything in creation don't belong to them now they are free, and that they can't live by stealing. But by that time, where will we be ? Where will the negro be?”
Of these men, one was from Georgia, one from North Carolina, and others from Florida and Virginia ; yet they all concurred in the opinion, which no argument could shake, that the freedmen would die, but not work.
Our conversation was interrupted by the opening of the President's room. A strong tide instantly set towards it, resulting in a violent jam at the door. I was carried in by the crowd, but got out of it as soon as possible, and placed myself in a corner where I could observe the proceedings of the reception.
President Johnson was standing behind a barrier which extended the whole length of the room, separating him from the crowd. One by one they were admitted to him ; each man presenting his card as he passed the barrier. Those who were without cards were refused admission, until they had provided themselves with those little conveniences at a desk in the hall.
I should scarcely have recognized the President from any of his published pictures. He appeared to me a man rather below the medium height, sufficiently stout, with a massy, well-developed head, strong features, dark, iron-gray hair, a thick, dark complexion, deep-sunk eyes, with a peculiarly wrinkled, care-worn look about them, and a weary expression generally. His voice was mild and subdued, and his manner kindly. He shook hands with none. To each applicant for pardon he put a question or two, sometimes only one, and dispatched him, with a word of promise or advice.' No one was permitted to occupy more than a minute or two of his time, while some were disposed of in as many seconds. On the whole, it was an interesting but sad scene; and I still carry in my memory the President's weary look, and the disappointed faces of the applicants, who, after long waiting, and perhaps going through with this same ceremony day after day, received no intimation that the object of their hopes was near its accomplishment.
Taking the train at Washington, and crossing the long railroad bridge which spans the Potomac, I entered again a portion of Virginia rendered celebrated and desolate by war.
Running down to Alexandria, and making a short stop there, we rattled on towards Manassas. All the names throughout that region are historical, stamped and re-stamped upon the memory of America by the burning brand of war. The brakeman bawls in at the door of the car words which start you with a thrill of recollection. The mind goes back through four fiery years of conflict to the campaign of '61, until it grows bewildered, in doubt whether that contest or this journey is unreal, — for surely one must be a dream! That first season of disaster and dismay, which associated the names of Fairfax Court House, Centreville, Bull Run, Manassas, with something infinitely horrible and fatal, had passed away like a cloud; the storm of the subsequent year, still more terrible, except that we had grown accustomed to such, had also passed, dissolving in thin vapor of history; and one would never have guessed that such things had been, but for the marks of the wrath of heaven, which had left the country scathed as with hailstones and coals of fire.
Yes, those skirmishes and dire contests were realities; and now this quiet journey, this commonplace mode of travel into what was then the “enemy's country,” with hot-blooded Virginians (now looking cool enough) sitting upon the seats next us, and conversing tamely and even pleasantly with us when we accosted them, — no murderous masked batteries in front, no guerrillas in the woods waiting to attack the train ; in short,