A Quiet Conversation on Indian Affairs
General Grant Determined to Make "Let Us Have Peace" Mean Something.
The Camp Grant Affair a Wholesale Murder.
How Interested Citizens Approach the President.
Experience of a Herald Correspondent.

WEST POINT, June 7, 1871.

About a dozen idlers assembled at the dock at the foot of Vestry street, New York, last evening to see the President of his party embark on the Mary Powell for West Point. They did not have much to see. General Grant, with his wife, father and Miss Nellie Grant, drove up in a hack a few minutes before the boat started and bustled on board through the crowd like other but less distinguished citizens. I happened to be going up the river at the same time and in due course had a little talk with the General. I was wandering about the forward deck with an unbitten cigar in my mouth, when a most wretched hat, shining over the fire of an excellent cigar, attracted my attention. The hat and the cigar were the property of the President of the United States. For foolish Frenchmen the scene on the deck would have afforded an excellent lesson. They would have understood by a few minutes' observation how among thinking and reasonable republicans, liberty is never outraged by license. The President of the United States of America stood smoking and smiling with a hand on the side of the boat, looking at the crowd on board and on the magnificent panorama of the river and towering hills He was no better than any other man there, and looked as if he thought so. There is an immense number of Fourth of July orations stuck in the crevices of Grant's coat, and the Glorious Bird seems, as one looks at him, to have entered possession of his unfashionable and battered hat. I am satisfied he would prefer


with a good fellow who thoroughly understood wood chopping, iron-moulding or tanning to an interview with an inane haw-haw jackass with a pedigree, but who knew nothing. That is my opinion at least. I believe he properly represents the average American of our day. A better type of a man and a citizen may be presented us in future years, and Grant will, if he survives his annoyances, vote for him. But Grant is not as good as he might be. He thinks enough, but he ought to speak more. He can't shrug his shoulders in contempt of possible consequences, or wink or smoke away a possessing Presidential sin. This particular sin is silence. Until he was persuaded to speak through the HERALD on matters of moment, the citizens of the United States thought him to be something entirely different from what he really is. He will now be better understood.

These thoughts occurred to me as I watched the crowd gazing on the President and noticed the badgered Chief Magistrate writhing in agonized expectation of an interview. A red-headed countryman was staring intently at him, and a miserable looking son of Aesculapius smiled under ancient spectacles and winked persistently at all around him. Smokers are attracted together by a feeling that cannot be expressed by any love of the weed nor yet understood by any who loathe its fragrant flavor. And so, being a smoker, I marked out a burning light in the cloud of faces, and after much worrying of my coat tails was shoved against the President. His cigar was very good or the trip was very slow. The Presidential mind was still. A calm prevailed under the President's hat.

They eye of the red-headed fellow in spectacles was ever on Grant, and the effect was bad.

"Why on earth," I said, after greeting the President, "do you allow those people to bother you? Why not tell them to go away?"

"Why should I?" said the President in reply. "I suppose these boys are intelligent enough. They are citizens, and have a right to speak to the person who happens to be the first citizen of the States if they please. No, I like to see them. I don't know how they regard me, of course, but they are patriotic enough to be respectful to the Chief Magistrate of their country."

"Have you ever remarked. Mr. President; I don't know him."


He used to blacken my boots when I was a cadet. He knows everybody around here."

"Suppose we get him to black our boots, Mr. President. I want to see a friend of the President shine."

"Thank you. Wait until we get to West Point."

"He has rather an Indian face, has he not?"

"Yes, he is a peculiar man; but there are few Indians as shrewd as he."

"I hope he is not an Apache. It would not be pleasant to meet an infuriated redskin thirsting for the blood of his Great Father."

"See his hand placed over the small of his back."

"He is scratching. Mr. President, or feeling for a bowie knife that he has not got. What is the matter?"

The President puffed smoke vigorously and hung on to the stanchion, while I went forward to see the row.

Italy and Ireland were in conflict on the forward deck. An Italian gentleman with an instrument of many tunes was hammering on six flexible keys. A gentleman from Ireland, with a splendid brogue and excitable temperament, was vainly trying to urge a quicker measure.

"The divil scatther ye," said the irate Hibernian. "What de ye mane? How kin a man dance to that? Be jabers 'tis the melancholiest tune ever I heard. Hang yer dirty Italian sowl, give us the 'Harp of Erin,' or something that I can dance to."

"Fine, be gor!" exclaimed the frisky Hibernian as the Italian squeezed from his folded bagpipes a weak imitation of the "Limerick Races." "Be jabers, I wish the Prisident wor here; It's meself wud like to show 'm the facility of me foot."

The President laughed heartily, and remarked to me that the funny Hibernian was frisky.

"Yes," I said; "but he is not dangerous. That man is not bent on mischief; he wants fun, and fun he'll have. You do not understand the race to which that man belongs, Mr. President, and you ought to. They are


but give them a chance to laugh and they will laugh louder than all others. They are funny, and could joke you into the White House for a second term if they liked."

"See," said the President, hastily, "how beautifully the shadows fall down toward the shore from those high bluffs! The scenery is magnificent. I never saw the Hudson look more beautiful."

"Have you ever been on the St. Lawrence?" I asked. "The scenery there is magnificent."

"I have travelled from Montreal up the river, but I never was below. Certainly, the scenery is very fine, but it does not, I think, equal this."

"I differ with you, Mr. President."

"Well, perhaps--"

"I don't think you can appreciate, Mr. President, the pleasure of being able to give a flat contradiction to the Chief of the republic on a matter of taste. It makes me feel that there is worth while being a citizen."

"There is a great deal of nonsense written about me. I don't want to do any more than carry out the wishes of the American people as they are expressed through their representatives and the press. I try to observe the oath of office I took when inaugurated, and I believe I have succeeded. What good I have done the credit is to the people; the faults of the administration are mine. My faults have come


What good I have done is under guard in the rear. It remains with the people to decide on the merits and demerits of my administration."

"Look at that man, General," I then said; "He wants to see you or me--I don't know which. He is weeping tears of sympathy through his spectacles."

"I guess I'll throw away my cigar and go up stairs and join the ladies," said the President.

"He wants to see you, sir," I said. "Had you not better see him?"

"Well, yes."

The red-headed man then slided up and crawled round to my side of the stanchion. Pulling me violently by the coat tail, and peering round earnestly into my face, he said that he had been looking at me for a long time, and wanted to see me particularly. "You are thick with the President?" he whispered, inquiringly.

"Immense!" I replied. "United States Minister to Dulth."

"Don't say! I want to fix matters with you," he returned.

"H-u-s-h" I answered. "He'll hear you. Go it!"

"I want to be introduced."

The President was smiling grimly behind the post, and must have heard this and


He smiled and said nothing.

"Mr. President," I said. "this gentleman has approached me for an introduction to you. He does not seem to have spirit enough to introduce himself. Will you see him?"

"Yes certainly."

And then as the countryman warped his bulky body round the post to which the President hung tenaciously, there was a dead pause. The redheaded man opened wide his eyes, but speedily shut them with a snap, the smoke from two cigars being too much for him. He spoke, however, with vim. He was concerned about the frontier and had been worrying himself into a little fever concerning the Indian policy of the President. Hoisting his flaming beard up into dangerous proximity to the white end of General Grant's cigar, he asked "what the Indian business meant?"

The President replied that the Indian policy of the administration was working well.

"Mr. President," I whispered. "this fiery-headed citizen has struck oil politically. You have undertaken to quiet the savages on the Plains and you will have to do it. He wants to know what the Quakers are doing; perhaps he is a Broadbrim."

"Mr. President," said


trembling and excitedly, "air your goin' to 'low this ere thing? I kum from the 'terior of the State. I want to see the Indians have fair play, and when I see what is as shouldn't be, and men livin' as oughter be dead, and things on these her Plains goin' to hell. Mr. President I feel like 'bout blubberin' right out, so help me."

The President indicated, with a thrust of his thumb, that the friend of poor Lo had better shed his tears over the bulwarks. The red-headed man got sick and incoherent, and for the remainder of the evening was a source of amusement to the deck hands on the boat.

"General," I said, after the man had rolled out of our way, "that poor fellow has an idea in his head, but he can't express it. That Indian matter must be settled up."

"There is no settling up about it," said the President; "I want to see the frontier quiet. I think it can be made quiet without shooting the Indians."

"What would you do with them?"

"Make them obedient to the authority of the United States. Grape, canister and rifle bullets are the proper remedies for marauding braves. No sir; you are like all young men. Your remedy for pressing difficulties is to slam bullets around."

"Excuse me, Mr. President. I am not young, and I don't like bullets."

Those people," said the President, after a pause, "who clamor for


on the Plains either are interested or know nothing of the condition of affairs in the wild regions where the Indians live. I have lived with the Indians and I know hem thoroughly. They can be civilized and made friends of the republic. It takes tact and skill, however, to deal with them. They are shrewd and cunning and won't be shaved out of their rights if they know it. My policy is peace. When I said, 'Let us have peace,' I meant it. I want peace on the Plains as everywhere else. That man was in earnest when he came to see me, and I supposed he wanted to talk of the Camp Grant affair. That attack on the Apaches was murder, purely."

"The Apaches, General , are irreclaimable, are they not?--the Ishmaels of the Plains."

"They are warlike--that is, the young savages wander off to rob and murder occasionally; but no doubt they have provocation. I will investigate the massacre of the Apaches at Camp Grant and be just to all concerned. The Indian question is not one that the government should be called upon to settle. The citizens of the outlying States and Territories ought to be able to fix that."

"The Quakers, Mr. President, are working hard to reclaim the Indians."

"The Quakers are doing well, have done well, and will do more. Other denominations of Christians are also laboring with effect among the Indians. They are all laboring for the same end, and I will give hem all the support I can. I don't like riding over and shooting


I want to conciliate them and make them peaceful citizens. The policy of peace, sir, is much preferable to the policy of war. You can't thrash people so that they will love you; even though they are Indians. You, however, make enemies friends by kindness. Isn't that right?"

The President here looked squarely round and his face beamed with smiles. "We are near the Point. I suppose," he said. "I shall be allowed to have my son with me all day next Sunday. I saw what was said about him in the HERALD. That was fair and correct, I believe. Fred will have to row his own boat through life, and as his father I, of course, shall be glad to see him row well. I expect to see him pass his examination creditably."

At this point in the conversation a thin and hugely spectacled gentleman broke from a crowd of silent observers before us and advanced to the President. He winked at the President and punched me.

"Here is a fine change of gliding down to the level of a member of Assembly," thought I.

The gentleman had an immense deal to say, but


he had ready got tangled into a knot in his throat and stopped there. I felt like patting him on the back and footing him in order to start the direful scene.

The President looked at the poor man a few minutes and then went away. I had to bear the brunt of the citizen's annoying gaze.

"You are a great friend of the President's," he said, as soon as he was able to talk.

"Yes," I answered: "he has just made me Ambassador to Turk's Island or Turkey, I don't remember which. I am going out there by way of the Highlands."

"Would you say something for me?"

"Why, of course I will, and will tell the President, if he thinks proper to converse with me again, that you are one of those foolish persons who would sooner loaf for a year in the expectation of receiving some miserable office than go to work like a man and earn a decent living."

The spectacled citizens remained away after that, and I did not see him again till the boat stopped at Cozzens'.

I met Sunset Cox at the hotel. He was cheerful and lively. He thought the place dull. I suggested a game of billiards. He sad he didn't play on a carom table--his was the pocket game. I declined to play, on the ground that I could not dare compete with a Congressman in the pocket game. He got a little mad, but is better this morning.

[New York Herald, June 8, 1871, p.5]