The first day I took two boys as apprentices. First, Wesley Miller, who had spent two months in a Harrisburg office, and knew something of the art, but did not like anything about it except working the press. Second, my nephew, William B. Mitchell, who was thirteen, knew nothing of types, but was a model of patient industry.
Our magnanimous printers hung around hotels, laughing at the absurdity of this amateur office. We might set type, but when it came to making and locking up a form, ha, ha, wouldn’t there be sport? That handsome new type would all be a mess of pi, then somebody would be obliged to come to their terms or St. Cloud would be without a paper. It was their great opportunity to display their interest in the general welfare, and they embraced it to the full; but of the little I had learned in that short apprenticeship six years ago, I retained a clear conception of the principles of justification by works. I brought these to bear on those forms, made them up, locked them, and sent for Stephen Miller to carry them to the press, when each one lifted like a paving stone; but alas, alas, the columns read from right to left. I unlocked them, put the matter back in the galleys, made them up new, and we had the paper off on time.
From that time until the first of January, ’63, I carried on the business of practical printer, issued a paper every week, did a large amount of job work, was city and county printer for half a dozen counties, did all the legal advertising, published the tax lists, and issued extras during the Indian massacres.
When, after Mr. Lincoln’s election, the South made the North understand that her threats of disunion meant something more than “tin kettle thunder,” there was little spirit of compromise among the Republicans and Douglas Democrats of Minnesota, who generally looked with impatience on the abject servility with which Northern men in Congress begged their Southern masters not to leave them, with no slaves to catch, no peculiar institution to guard.
I was in favor of not only permitting the Southern States to leave the Union, but of driving them out of it as we would drive tramps out of a drawing room. Put them out! and open every avenue for the escape of their slaves. But from that spirit of conciliation with which the North first met, secession, the change was sudden. The fire on Sumter lit an actual flame of freedom, and the people were ready then to wipe slavery from the whole face of the land. When Gen. Fremont issued his famous order confiscating the slaves of rebels in arms, I was in receipt of a large exchange list, and have never seen such unanimity on any subject. I think there were but two papers which offered an objection; but this land was not worthy to do a generous deed. So, President Lincoln rescinded that order, and the great rushing stream