February 23rd.—In the evening, I went to a meeting of the Democratic party in the town-hall, thinking it would afford me a good opportunity for observing American manners. The place was full; and when I arrived, a gentleman was addressing the meeting with great vehemence of tone and gesture. His speech consisted of innumerable changes rung on the sentiment—“There must be a vigorous prosecution of the war against Mexico.” But I must reserve any further account of this meeting for my next letter.
Stay at Cincinnati (continued)—The Democratic Meeting—A Visit to Lane Seminary—“Public Declamation”—Poem on War—Essay on Education.
In resuming my notice of the Democratic meeting, let me observe that the Democratic party in America is not very reputable. It is the war party, the pro-slavery party, the mob party, and, at present, the dominant party,—the party, in fine, of President Polk. It had just been aroused to the highest pitch of indignation, by a telling speech delivered in Congress against the Mexican War by Thomas Corwin, Esq., one of the Ohio senators. This meeting, then, was intended as a demonstration in favour of Polk and his policy; but it turned out a miserable failure.
When the blustering speaker who “had the floor” when I entered sat down, the “president” (for they do not say the chairman) rose, amidst a tremendous storm of favourite names, uttered simultaneously by all present at the top of their voices, and, as soon as he could be heard, said it had been moved and seconded that So-and-so, Esq., be requested to address the meeting: those who were in favour of that motion were to say “Ay,”—those against it, “No.” One great “Ay” was then uttered by the mass, and a few “Noes” were heard. The “Ayes" had it. But an unforeseen difficulty occurred. So-and-so, Esq., either was not there, or would not speak. Amidst deafening noise again, the president rose, and said it had been moved and seconded that John Brough, Esq., be requested to address the meeting. “Ay”—“No;” but the “Ayes” had it. “Now, John Brough,” said a droll-looking Irishman, apparently a hod-carrier, who was at my elbow,—
“Now, John Brough,
Out with the stuff.”
Here was Paddy on the western side of the Allegany Mountains, with his native accent and native wit as fresh and unimpaired as if he had but just left his green isle, and landed on one of the quays at Liverpool. But John Brough again declined the honour conferred upon him! Then it was moved and seconded and “ayed” that So-and-so, Esq., be requested to address the meeting, but he also was not forthcoming! Nil desperandum. It was moved and seconded and “ayed” that—Callaghan, Esq., be requested to address the meeting. After some hesitation, and a reference to his own “proverbial modesty,” he proceeded to foam, and stamp, and thump, and bluster for “the vigorous prosecution of the war,” till the American eagle should “stretch his wings over the halls of the Montezumas.” At this stage of the proceedings, the spitting and smoke had become so offensive that I was compelled to retire; and I did so with no very high notions of the intelligence and respectability of the American democrats.