The Buckinghams an Original Puritan Family—Rev. Thomas Buckingham—Gov. Buckingham's Father and Mother—Lebanon, the Birthplace of Five Governors—Gov. Buckingham's Education—He Teaches School—His Natural Executive Tendency—His Business Career—His Extreme Punctuality in Payments—His Business and Religious Character—His Interest in the Churches and Schools—His Benefactions in those Directions—His Political Course—He Accepts Municipal but not Legislative Offices—A Member of the Peace Conference—He Himself Equips the First State Militia in the War—His Zealous Co-operation with the Government—Sends Gen. Aiken to Washington—The Isolation of that City from the North—Gov. Buckingham's Policy for the War; Letter to Mr. Lincoln—His Views on Emancipation; Letter to Mr. Lincoln—Anecdote of the Temperance Governor's Staff.

In writing the history of men of our time, we feel that we are only making a selection of a few from among many. We have given the character of one State Governor—we could give many more, but must confine ourselves to only two examples. William Alfred Buckingham, for eight years Governor of Connecticut, and under whose administration the State passed through the war, may be held a worthy representative of the wisdom, energy and patriotism of our state magistracy in the time of the great trials.

Gov. Buckingham is of the strictest old Puritan stock. The first of the name in this country was Thomas Buckingham, one of the colony that planted New Haven, Conn., but who soon removed to Milford in that State, where he was one of the "Seven Pillars" of the church there, as originally organized. His son, Rev. Thos. Buckingham, was minister of Saybrook, one of the founders of Yale College, and one of the moderators of the Synod that framed the "Saybrook Platform." Through this branch of the family, this Governor of Connecticut is descended, his father having been born in Saybrook.

William Alfred Buckingham, the son of Samuel and Joanna (Matson) Buckingham, was born in Lebanon, Conn., May 28, 1804. His father was a thrifty farmer, a deacon in the church, a man of remarkably sound judgment and common sense, and a public spirited man, abounding in hospitality. His mother was one of those women in whom the strong qualities of the Puritan stock come to a flowering and fruitage of a celestial quality, a rare union of strength and soundness. She had a mother's ambition for her children, but always directed to the very highest things. "Whatever else you are, I want you to be Christians," was one of her daily household sayings. Her memory is cherished in the records of many words and deeds of love and beneficence, written not with ink and pen, "but in fleshy tables of the heart," in all the region where she lived.

The little town of Lebanon, like many others of the smaller New England towns, had a fine Academy, which enjoyed the culture of some of those strong and spicy old New England school masters, that were a generation worthy of more praise and celebration than the world knows of. For that reason perhaps, this little town of Lebanon has given to the State of Connecticut five Governors, who have held that State office for 37 years out of the past one hundred—more than one-third of the century.

Governor Buckingham's education was a striking specimen of New England. It was based first on the soil, in the habits and associations of a large, thriving, well conducted farm. It was nourished up at those rural Academies, which are fountain memorials of the enthusiasm for education, of our Puritan fathers. He had a special taste for mathematics, which, united with the promptings of a vigorous and energetic physical nature, and love of enterprise, led him to desire the profession of a practical surveyor, a profession which in those days had some state patronage, and was attractive to young men of that class of character. At the age of eighteen, he taught district school, in Lyme, and gave such satisfaction that his services were earnestly sought for another year. He returned, however, to the practical labors of his father's farm, and for the last three years performed as much work as any of the laborers whom his father hired. His nature seemed to incline him rather to a dealing with the practical and physical forces of the world, and so he wisely forbore that classical career which would have occupied four years of his life in a college, and began the career of a man of business at once, entering a dry goods store in Norwich as clerk, at twenty. After two years spent there, and a short experience in a wholesale store in New York, he established himself in business as a dry goods merchant at Norwich, Conn. From this time his career has been a successful one in the business circles of the country. Enterprise, prudence, thrift, order and exact punctuality and spotless integrity have given him a name worth any amount of money. In 1830 he commenced the manufacture of ingrain carpeting, which he continued for 18 years. In 1848 he closed up his dry goods business, discontinued the manufacturing of carpeting, and engaged in the fabrication of India Rubber, a business then in its infancy.

From that time to the present, he has been the treasurer, and an active business director of the Hayward Rubber Company, a company located in Colchester, which has prosecuted an extensive and successful business. He is now a stockholder in eight or ten manufacturing companies, to the general management of quite a number of which he gives his attention.

An important feature in his character in these relations is his great business accuracy and punctuality. With an extended business running through a period of forty years, only two notes drawn, were protested for non-payment, and these cases occurred when he was wholly disabled from business by sickness. It was his custom always to remit money to meet notes due in New York, three days before their maturity. He has always regarded himself as under obligations to pay his debts at the time agreed upon, as much as to pay the amount due.

His unvarying and unfailing accuracy in these respects, had given him a character which enabled him at any time to command the assistance of any bank with which he did business. His name was good for any amount of resources. This particular characteristic made his position as Governor of Connecticut, in the sudden crisis of the war, of vital value to the country.

No man could so soon command those material resources which are the sine qua non of war, and it is one of many good Providences that the state of Connecticut at this crisis was so manned. Immediately on the news of the war, the banks of the state, and business men in all parts, sent immediate and prompt word to him that he might command their utmost resources. They were even anxious to have their capital at once made serviceable in the emergency, and they felt sure in doing so that they were putting their resources into the hands of a leader every way fitted to employ them to the best advantage.

Governor Buckingham is well known as an exemplary and laborious Christian, a devoted friend of education, a practical and consistent temperance man, and proverbially generous in his charities towards these, and every other good cause. And it has probably been due to this, as much as to his personal and official integrity, that he has been so popular with his friends, and claimed such respect from his political opponents. Indeed nothing could have been more respectful and generous, during all those excited political canvasses which belonged to his public life, than the treatment his private character received from those who were politically opposed to him.

His own strict attention to the proprieties and courtesy's of life, his bland and urbane manners may go a long way towards accounting for this result.

In 1830 he united with the Second Congregational Church, under the care of Rev. Alfred Mitchell, and in 1838 made a report to the Ecclesiastical Society, to show the necessity of organizing a new church. Such a church was organized four years after, and is now known as the Broadway Congregational Church. From its organization to the present time, he has been one of its deacons, an active member, and a liberal supporter. He gave them a fine organ when their present church building was completed, and has lately erected a beautiful chapel for one of their Mission Sabbath Schools. He has himself been a Sabbath School Teacher for the last thirty-seven years, except during the four years of the Rebellion.

He was moderator of the National Congregational Council held in Boston, in 1865.

As a friend of Education, he earnestly advocated the consolidation of the School Districts of Norwich, and a system of graded schools to be open to all, and supported by a tax on property, and he was permitted to see such a system established with the most beneficial results. He was deeply interested in the effort to establish the Norwich Free Academy, gave his personal efforts to obtain a fund for its endowment, and has contributed an amount to that fund second only to one subscriber.

Having seen the extended and beneficial influence which Yale College has exerted and is exerting over the political and religious interest of the country, he has felt it a privilege and a duty to contribute largely to the pecuniary necessities of that institution.

He has given a permanent fund to the Broadway Congregational Church in Norwich, and to the Congregational Church in Lebanon, with which his parents and sisters were connected, the income of which is to be used for the pastor's library. Joseph Otis, Esq., who founded a public library in Norwich, selected him for one of the trustees, and he is now President of the Board.

As a politician, he was a Whig. In 1842 he was the candidate of that party for a seat in the lower house of the General Assembly, but was not elected. He was afterwards repeatedly nominated both for the House of Representatives and for the Senate, but declined such nominations, and was never a member of a legislative body. He has, however, frequently accepted municipal offices; was often elected a member of the City Council, sometimes occupying the seat of an alderman, and was elected Mayor of the city of Norwich in 1849 and 1850, and again in the years 1856 and 1857. When the Whig party was broken up, he placed himself with the Republicans, and in 1858 was elected Governor of the State, which position he occupied eight years, and four of them were the years of the Rebellion.

The famous Peace Conference met at Washington one month before the inauguration of Lincoln, wherein were represented thirteen of the free States and seven of the slave States, for the purpose of considering what could be done to pacify the excited feelings of the South, and preserve the existing Union.

Governor Buckingham was not a member of the conference, but appointed the commissioners from Connecticut. He was in Washington during its session, and in daily intercourse with members of that body from all parts of the country, and understood their views of questions at issue. But from the very first he was of opinion that the state of things had reached a place where further compromise was an impossibility, or in the words of Lincoln, the Union must now become either in effect all for slavery or all for freedom in its general drift. So this peace conference broke up, effecting nothing.

When the news of the fall of Sumter reached Connecticut, attended by the Presidential call for troops, the State Legislature was not in session. Governor Buckingham, however, had such wide financial relations as enabled him immediately to command the funds for equipping the militia for the field.

From every quarter came to him immediate offers both of money and of personal services, from men of the very first standing in the State—and Connecticut, we think, may say with honest pride that no men went into the field better equipped, more thoroughly appointed and cared for. Governor Buckingham gave himself heart and soul to the work. During that perilous week when Washington stood partially isolated from the North, by the uprising of rebellion in Maryland, Governor Buckingham, deeply sympathizing with the President, dispatched his son-in-law, Gen. Aiken, who with great enterprize and zeal found his way through the obstructed lines to Washington, carrying the welcome news to the President that Connecticut was rising as one man, and that all her men and all her wealth to the very last would be at the disposal of the country.

The account of Gen. Aiken's trip to Washington with the dispatches for the government there, brings freshly to mind the intense excitement of those days, and it contains some very striking touches of description of the state of things at Washington. Gen. Aiken left Norwich at 6 A. M., on Monday, April 22d, 1861; on reaching Philadelphia that evening, found that city extremely stirred up, and all regular communication with Washington suspended; met a gentleman who wished to reach Washington, and the two spent most of the night in searching for the means of proceeding. At four next morning they got permission to set out on a special train with a Pennsylvania regiment, and after a very slow journey, in consequence of the danger of finding the track torn up, reached Perryville, on the Susquehanna, at ten. Gen. Butler had carried off the ferry-boats to Annapolis; and after delay and search, our two travellers hired a skiff and crossed to Havre de Grace, where they found, not only that the town was full of reports of railroads and telegraphs broken up in all directions, but that there were plenty of men watching to see how many "d—d Yankees," as they called them, were going towards Washington. Gen. Aiken and his friend, however, after a time, chartered a covered wagon and rode to Baltimore, arriving about 9 1–2 P. M. The streets were brilliantly lighted, and full of people, some of them in uniform, and most of them wearing rebel badges; and even the few words which the travellers heard as they passed along the crowded halls of their hotel, apprized them that no man could avow Unionism there and preserve his life in safety for a moment. They accordingly went at once to their rooms and kept out of sight until morning, when the hotel proprietor, a personal friend of Gen. Aiken's companion, and also of the leading Baltimore rebels, procured them passes signed by Gen. Winder and countersigned by Marshal Kane. Having these, they paid $50 for a carriage which took them to Washington. Reaching Washington at 10 P. M. on Wednesday, Gen. Aiken found its silence and emptiness a startling contrast to the hot-blooded crowd at Baltimore. He says:

"Half a dozen people in the hall of the hotel crowded around to ask questions about the North. I then began to realize the isolation of the city." Hurrying to Gen. Scott's head-quarters, the old chief was found with only two of his staff. "Upon reading the Governor's letter, he rose and said excitedly, 'Sir, you are the first man I have seen with a written dispatch for three days. I have sent men out every day to bring intelligence of the northern troops. Not one of them has returned; where are the troops?' The number and rapidity of his questions, and his very excited manner, gave me a further realization of the critical nature of the situation."

Calling on Secretary Cameron, Gen. Aiken was received very much in the same manner. A friend in one of the Departments "advised very strongly against a return by the same route, as my arrival was known, and the general nature of my business suspected by rebel spies, with whom the city abounded, and in some quarters least suspected.

"How the knowledge of my affairs could have been gained has always been a mystery, for I had realized since leaving Philadelphia, that my personal safety depended entirely upon secrecy and prudence.

"At 10 A. M. I called on the President, and saw him for the first time in my life. It was an interview I can never forget. No office-seekers were about 'the presence' that day—there was no delay in getting an audience. Mr. Lincoln was alone, seated in his business room up stairs, looking toward Arlington Heights through a widely opened window. Against the casement stood a very long spy-glass, which he had obviously just been using. I gave him all the information I could, from what I had seen and heard during my journey.

"He seemed depressed beyond measure, as he asked, slowly, and with great emphasis, 'What is the North about? Do they know our condition?' I said, 'No, they certainly did not when I left.' This was true enough.

"He spoke of the non-arrival of the troops under Gen. Butler, and of having had no intelligence from them for two or three days. * * *

"I have referred to the separation of the city from the North. In no one of many ways was it brought home more practically to my mind than in this: The funds in my possession were in New York city bank notes. Their value in Washington had suddenly and totally departed. They were good for their weight in paper, and no more. During my interview with the President, my financial dilemma was referred to. I remarked that I had not a cent, although my pockets were full. He instantly perceived my meaning, and kindly put me in possession of such an amount of specie as I desired. * * * Having delivered my dispatch, and the Governor's words of encouragement, and enjoyed an interview protracted, by the President's desire, beyond ordinary length, I left."

The New York Seventh Regiment reached the city just as Gen. Aiken had walked from the President's house to the State Department; and when the flag announcing their arrival at the Baltimore station was hoisted, says Gen. Aiken, "such a stampede of humanity, loyal and rebel, as was witnessed that hour in the direction of the Baltimore Railway station, can only be imagined by those who, like myself, took part in it. One glance at the gray jackets of the Seventh put hope in the place of despondency in my breast."

Gen. Aiken returned by taking a private conveyance, and obscure roads, until, north of the Pennsylvania line, he reached a railroad, and at Hanover, the first telegraph station, reported progress to Governor Buckingham, having been unable to communicate with him during four days, and not having seen the United States flag once during the whole trip from Philadelphia around to the Pennsylvania line, except on the Capitol at Washington. Gen. Aiken, in concluding his account, says, undoubtedly with correctness, "There has been no hour since that when messages of sympathy, encouragement and aid from the loyal Governor of a loyal State were more truly needed or more effective upon the mind of our late President, than those I had the honor to deliver."

The views of Governor Buckingham as to the policy to be pursued with the rebellion may best be learned from the following letter, which he addressed to the President, dated June 25th, 1861:

"Sir—The condition of our government is so critical that the people of this State are looking with deep interest to measures which you may recommend to Congress, and to the course which that body may pursue when it shall convene on the 4th day of July next.

"You will not therefore think me presuming if I present for your consideration the views entertained by a large majority of our citizens, especially when I assure you that if they are not approved by your judgment, I shall regard it as evidence that their importance is over-estimated.

"There are to-day probably more than three hundred thousand men organized, armed and in rebellion against the general government. Millions of other citizens, who have been protected by its power, now deny its authority, and refuse obedience to its laws. Multitudes of others, who prize the blessings which they have received under its policy, are so overawed by the manifestations of passionate violence which surround them, that their personal security is found in suppressing their opinions, and floating with the current into the abyss of anarchy. The person and property and liberty of every citizen are in peril. This is no ordinary rebellion. It is a mob on a gigantic scale, and should be met and suppressed by a power corresponding with its magnitude.

"The obligations of the government to the loyal, the principles of equity and justice, the claims of humanity, civilization and religion, unite in demanding a force sufficient to drive the rebels from every rendezvous, to influence them to return to their homes and their lawful employments, to seize their leaders and bring them before the proper tribunals for trial, and to inflict upon them the punishment justly due for their crimes. In your message to Congress I trust you will ask for authority to organize and arm a force of four or five hundred thousand men, for the purpose of quelling the rebellion, and for an appropriation from the public treasury sufficient for their support. Let legislation upon every other subject be regarded as out of time and place, and the one great object of suppressing the rebellion be pursued by the administration with vigor and firmness, without taking counsel of our fears, and without listening to any proposition or suggestion which may emanate from rebels or their representatives, until the authority of the government shall be respected, its laws enforced, and its supremacy acknowledged in every section of our country.

* * * * *

"To secure such high public interests, the State of Connecticut will bind her destinies more closely to those of the general government, and in adopting the measures suggested she will renewedly pledge all her pecuniary and physical resources, and all her moral power.

"I am, dear sir, yours,
with high consideration,

"To Abraham Lincoln,
President of the United States."

This gallant and spirited letter shows conclusively that if the first one or two years of the war trailed on in irresolution and defeat, it was not for want of decided spirit in Connecticut and her governor.

Still later in the war, we find Governor Buckingham addressing the following to President Lincoln, in view of his projected Emancipation Policy:

"State of Connecticut, Executive Department,
Hartford, Sept. 26, 1862.

"Dear Sir:—While my views of your Proclamations issued on the 22d and 24th instants, may be of little or no importance, yet you will permit me to congratulate you and the country that you have so clearly presented the policy which you will hereafter pursue in suppressing the rebellion, and to assure you that it meets my cordial approval, and shall have my unconditional support.

"Not that I think your declaration of freedom will of itself bring liberty to the slave, or restore peace to the nation; but I rejoice that your administration will not be prevented by the clamors of men in sympathy with rebels, from using such measures as you indicate to overpower the rebellion, even if it interferes with and overthrows their much loved system of slavery.

"Have we not too long deluded ourselves with the idea that mild and conciliatory measures would influence them to return to their allegiance? They have appealed to the arbitrament of the sword; why should we hesitate to use the sword, and press the cause to a decision? Have we not undervalued their resources, disbelieved in their deep hatred of our government and its free institutions; and, influenced by erroneous ideas of the principles of humanity and mercy, criminally sent our brave sons down to the grave by thousands, without having given them the coveted honor of falling on the battle-field, or without having changed in the least the purpose of our enemies.

"This little State has already sent into the army, and has now at the rendezvous more than one-half of her able-bodied men between the ages of eighteen and forty-five years, and has more to offer, if wanted, to contend in battle against the enemies of our government.

"I trust we shall press with increased energy and power every war measure, as the most economical, humane and Christian policy which can be adopted to save our national union, as well as to secure permanent peace to those who shall succeed us.

"With sympathy for you in your responsible position, and renewed assurance of my cordial support, believe me, with high regard,

your obedient servant,

"To President Lincoln,
Washington, D. C.

After eight years of public service, five of which were made arduous by this war, into which, as may be seen by these letters, Governor Buckingham threw his whole heart and soul, and in which he bore equally with our good President, the burdens of the country, he retired at last to that more private sphere which he fills with so many forms of honorable usefulness.

We have but one anecdote in closing, a noble tribute to the Governor's blameless example in his high station.

The Connecticut Election Day, as it is called, or the day when the Legislature assembles, and the Governor is inaugurated, has always been held in the State as a grand gala day. During the war, especially, the military pomp and parade was often very imposing. The Governor's military staff consists of eight or ten members, and while the war lasted hard work and responsible duties fell to their lot. A friend of the Governor who had usually been with him on these occasions, remarked to one of his staff at the last of them:

"I have often been with you on these occasions, and have never seen any liquor drank. I suppose," he added pleasantly, "you do that privately."

"No, sir;" was the reply. "None of the Governor's staff ever use liquor."

"Is that so?" was the surprised reply.

"Yes," was the answer—"it is so."

Such an example as this, in so high a place, had a value that could not be too highly estimated.

Wendell Phillips

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