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ever and that, therefore, he could not consent to receive a penny from any of them—that he had called them together that day to absolve them from their obligations—to wish them every kind of prosperity in life, and to bid them farewell. Nothing more.
A profound silence followed these words, his audience was momentarily stupified with astonishment. During this pause he proceeded to place upon the live coals their promissory notes, and the entire bundle was consumed before their wondering eyes. His grateful clients, having somewhat recovered their self possession, raised, amidst the smoke of the charred papers, shout after shout, cheer after cheer.
Next day they instructed a committee from their body, to wait upon and invite him to a public dinner and to say in substance,
“Not that we think us worthy such a guest,
But that your worth will dignify our feast
With those that come.” When the committee arrived at his rooms, they found them empty and in disorder, a few stray bits of paper, the ends of strings and other evidences of hasty packing were scattered about the floor. Betimes that morning he had risen, and was now probably twenty miles distant on his return. He travelled by a road conducting to the Hot Springs, instead of proceeding immediately towards Staunton. This was a common thing with him. He often turned away from the beaten track, trebling his journey, in order to visit some region famed for its scenic beauty. On the present occasion,
following this custom, he took a route remarkable for its
“When from the naked top
Rise up, and bathe the world in light.” were all familiar to him from a boy. Thus was his mind fed upon nature in her choicest aspects, and his enthusiastic heart impelled towards art and its cultivation.
It is proper that it should be explained with reference to his observation to his clients, when burning · their notes, “ that he had rendered them no service,” that no man deserved to stand higher for his moral qualities and his faithful discharge of duty. He was as much distinguished for the uprightness of his dealing
in all transactions of a business character, as for his benevolent affections. In this remark his modesty spoke, and only his modesty. He was emphatically antiqua homo virtute ac fide, and, moreover, a philanthropist in the truest sense of that word. Everything tending to the good of his kind, he was on all occasions, and particularly in cases of distress, zealous to forward, considering nothing as foreign to himself, as a man, which related to man. Consequently, he counted, as we have before said, many friends, and from the great purity and simplicity of his manners, few or no enemies, unless I may be allowed to call those enemies, who, without detracting from his merit openly, might yet from a jealousy of his superiority, be disposed to lessen it in private. An old author has said on this point, “men take an ill-natured pleasure in crossing our inclinations, and disappointing us in what our hearts are most set upon; when, therefore, they have discovered our ruling passion, they become sparing and reserved iu their commendations, they envy the satisfaction of applause, and look on their praise rather as a kindness done to our person than as a tribute to our merit. Others, who are free from this natural perverseness of temper, grow wary in their praises of one who sets a value on them, lest they should raise him too high in his own imagination, and, by consequence, remove him to a greater distance from themselves."
In 1824 when William Peyton returned from Yale he commenced, as has been previously said, reading for the bar. Though he gave sufficient time to this grave pursuit to pass for a young man of “steady habits,” he mingled largely in polite society. His name was generally found at this period among those who frequented balls, theatres, and other amusements. Frequently in Richmond and Washington his box was well known at the opera. Considering his youth and high natural spirits, this was but reasonable, one of those things to be expected.
During an incidental visit to Washington a year or two later, when dining with General Jackson, who had been recently elected President, the following passage occurred between them. It must be remembered that with the election of “Old Hickory” in 1829, a new and by no means improved order of things was introduced into American politics. For the first time since the foundation of the Government and to the no small disgust of the President's best friends and wisest counsellors, General Jackson announced his determination to be guided in all appointments to office by the maxim that “to the victors belong the spoils.” Shortly, therefore, after his inauguration, he summarily discharged every political opponent who chanced to hold office. That reckless spirit which has since degraded American politics was thus introduced, and has been from that time to the present in the ascendency. Shame has gradually perished; insolence and impudence prevail over justice, and possess the land. The purity of an earlier and better period of the Republic and their traditions are forgotten. Those days
“Once far famed,
Which virtue meditates." At the President's dinner our father was present, being at the time a guest at the Executive mansion. He had been one of Jackson's supporters in the election, but, it must be said in justice to his memory, under a total misapprehension of the General's political character. No man detested and repudiated more heartily than did John Howe Peyton the corrupting doctrine with which Jackson commenced his official career, and he became so convinced in the progress of