The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Light in the Clearing, by Irving Bacheller, Illustrated by Arthur I. Keller This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net Title: The Light in the Clearing Author: Irving Bacheller Release Date: November 25, 2004 [eBook #14150] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 ***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE LIGHT IN THE CLEARING*** E-text prepared by Rick Niles, Charlie Kirschner, and the Project Gutenberg Online Distributed Proofreading Team The Silent Woman stood, pointing at him with her finger THE LIGHT IN THE CLEARING A Tale of the North Country in the Time of Silas Wright BY IRVING BACHELLER AUTHOR OF EBEN HOLDEN, KEEPING UP WITH LIZZIE , ETC. ILLUSTRATED BY ARTHUR I. KELLER. The Spirit of Man is the Candle of the Lord —PROVERBS XX, 27 1917 TO MY FRIEND THOMAS R. PROCTOR, OF UTICA LOVER OF THE TRUE IDEALS OF DEMOCRACY WHOSE LIFE HAS BEEN A SHINING EXAMPLE TO ALL MEN OF WEALTH HONORED GENTLEMAN AND PHILANTHROPIST AT THE GATE OF THE LAND OF WHICH I HAVE WRITTEN DEDICATE THESE CHRONICLES OF THAT LAND AND OF ITS GREAT HERO FOREWORD From the memoirs of one who knew Governor Wright and lived through many of the adventures herein described and whose life ended full of honors early in the present century. It is understood that he chose the name Barton to signalize his affection for a friend well known in the land of which he was writing. THE AUTHOR. PREFACE The Light in the Clearing shone upon many things and mostly upon those which, above all others, have impassioned and perpetuated the Spirit of America and which, just now, seem to me to be worthy of attention. I believe that spirit to be the very candle of the Lord which, in this dark and windy night of time, has flickered so that the souls of the faithful have been afraid. But let us be of good cheer. It is shining brighter as I write and, under God, I believe it shall, by and by, be seen and loved of all men. One self-contained, Homeric figure, of the remote countryside in which I was born, had the true Spirit of Democracy and shed its light abroad in the Senate of the United States and the Capitol at Albany. He carried the candle of the Lord. It led him to a height of self-forgetfulness achieved by only two others—Washington and Lincoln. Yet I have been surprised by the profound and general ignorance of this generation regarding the career of Silas Wright, of whom Whittier wrote these lines: "Man of the millions thou art lost too soon! Portents at which the bravest stand aghast The birth throes of a future strange and vast Alarm the land. Yet thou so wise and strong Suddenly summoned to the burial bed, Lapped in its slumbers deep and ever long, Hear'st not the tumult surging over head. Who now shall rally Freedom's scattering host? Who wear the mantle of the leader lost?" The distinguished Senator who served at his side for many years, Thomas H. Benton of Missouri, has this to say of Silas Wright in his Thirty Years' View : "He refused cabinet appointments under his fast friend Van Buren and under Polk, whom he may be said to have elected. He refused a seat on the bench of the Supreme Court of the United States; he rejected instantly the nomination of 1844 for Vice-President; he refused to be put in nomination for the Presidency. He spent that time in declining office which others did in winning it. The offices he did accept, it might well be said, were thrust upon him. He was born great and above office and unwillingly descended to it." So much by way of preparing the reader to meet the great commoner in these pages. One thing more is necessary to a proper understanding of the final scenes in the book—a part of his letter written to Judge Fine just before the Baltimore convention of 1844, to wit: "I do not feel at liberty to omit any act which may protect me from being made the instrument, however honestly and innocently, of further distractions. "Within a few days several too partial friends have suggested to me the idea that by possibility, in case the opposition to the nomination of Mr. Van Buren should be found irreconcilable, a compromise might be made by dropping him and using my name. I need not say to you that a consent on my part to any such proceeding would justly forfeit my standing with the democracy of our state and cause my faith and fidelity to my party to be suspected everywhere.... To consent to the use of my name as a candidate under any circumstances, would be in my view to invite you to compromise the expressed wishes and instructions of your constituents for my personal advancement. I can never consent to place myself in a position where the suspicion of acting from such a motive can justly attach to me.... "If it were proper I could tell you with the most perfect truth that I have never been vain enough to dream of the office of President in connection with my own name, and were not Mr. Van Buren the candidate of our State, I should find just as little difficulty as I now do, in telling you that I am not and can not under any circumstances be a candidate before your convention for that office." According to his best biographer, Jabez Hammond, Mr. Wright still adhered to this high ground in spite of the fact that Mr. Van Buren withdrew and requested his faithful hand to vote for the Senator. There were those who accused Mr. Wright of being a spoilsman, the only warrant for which claim would seem to be his remark in a letter: "When our enemies accuse us of feeding our friends instead of them never let them lie in telling the story." He was, in fact, a human being, through and through, but so upright that they used to say of him that he was "as honest as any man under heaven or in it" For my knowledge of the color and spirit of the time I am indebted to a long course of reading in its books, newspapers and periodicals, notably The North American Review The United States Magazine and , Democratic Review The New York Mirror, The Knickerbocker, The St. Lawrence Republican, Benton's , Thirty Years'