A Year's Sojoun in the South [Excerpt]



"Such as we are made of, such we be."(Shakespeare)

Every man has, or there is a vocation in life for which every man is exactly fitted. But finding this one among the various pursuits, is not so very easily done, for, in regard to their relation to us, fortune seems to have scattered them about, with the irregularity of sibylline leaves. Yet (page 261) the secret of success in life is finding this vocation. The ancients believed this, for here it is, "Gnothi seauton."The really finding one's self, is the great discovery of our lives -
the true philosopher's stone-the talisman with which men convert everything into gold. Besides this true vocation of one's self, there is one to which men aspire, whether false or true, and for which there is a longing, that, if not satisfied, more or less embitters their whole lives.

Whether it was the great discovery of Senator Foote's life or not, we do not know, but it is certain that he found himself in the United States Senate, some number of years ago, which discovery to him appears to have been the talisman he sought. For being deprived of this bauble that fortune appears to have given him for awhile to amuse him there has been an "amari aliquid "-a drop of bitter flowing over his life ever since- he has constantly sighed to get the bauble back again.

Senator Foote is a Virginian by birth. He first, on leaving his native State, came to Alabama, but his first location was at Vicksburgh (sic), Mississippi, as the editor of a Democratic newspaper. Soon after, he established the Mississippian, still recognized as the central organ of the Democratic party of this State. Abandoning this enterprise, he located at Clinton, Hinds County, in the same State, as a lawyer, where he acquired considerable reputation as an advocate. Being of an active and quick mind, well-educated, and possessed of a very large fund of general information, he naturally sought every field within reach for a display of his powers. An unusually ready and effective debater, of keen wit and sarcasm, he was rather a formidable adversary, either on the forum or hustings.

He commenced his career in Mississippi at a period when that portion in which he lived was attracting (page 262) much attention as a suitable field for all sorts of men - the cotton-planter, the professional man of all classes, the speculator and the gambler. And at a time, too, when morals were not of a high grade, and excitements and dissipations, always accompanying this condition of things, were universal and rampant. And he being of a mercurial temper, was involved in various difficulties, two of which were with S. S. Prentiss, and resulted in duels, in the last of which he was slightly wounded, and which reconciled the feud between these two distinguished worthies of Mississippi.

Senator Foote's has been a wayward and checkered life.He has been really a political champion, and, for a while at least, has co-operated to some extent with all the political parties that have had an organization in this State.And during this time he was a member of the United States Senate for six years. Halcyon days! But,

"Gone glimmering through the dream of things that were,
A school-boy's tale-the wonder of an hour."

Of his career there the reader is well informed. It was while a member of this august body, that he received the cognomen of "Hangman Foote," the origin of which was this: In an exciting debate with Senator Hale, he told him if he ever caught him out of his own State, in Mississippi, he would hang him. To which Senator Hale replied, should he, Senator Foote, ever come to New Hampshire, he would treat him like a gentleman!

He was a man of power and influence in the Senate, and Mr. Clay esteemed him highly.  In 1851 he was elected, by a small majority, as the Union candidate, Governor of Mississippi. In the contest of 1853 he declared himself a candidate for the United States Senate, but was beaten by a very decided majority, (page 263) which so disappointed and mortified him that in a day or two he left the State to take up his abode in California.

Here it is said he succeeded in obtaining a large and lucrative practice as a lawyer. But there was the longing for the chief glory of his life -a seat in the United States Senate. His highest hopes and ambition were fixed upon this yet. And here once more, in this new and untried field of action, he essayed his fortunes for the lost bauble - and failed.

Despairing of success in this land of gold, he returned to the East, and located in Memphis, Tennessee. And I presume the prospect there for accomplishing the object of his life, or meeting with success as a lawyer, was rather gloomy; for he did not remain in Memphis long ere he removed to Vicksburgh, Mississippi, where he now is, at the foot of the ladder, where he commenced his strangely varied and checkered career, a quarter of a century ago.

Truly he can say with the poet,
"Life is a drama of a few brief acts;
The actors shift; the scene is often changed,
Pauses and revolutions intervene,
The mind is set to many a varied tune,
And jars and plays in harmony by turns."

Senator Foote is of small stature, though an active, energetic man. In private life he is said to be very estimable, of easy, affable and polished manners, warm and sincere in his attachments and friendships. ( page 264)