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Personal Recollections of Nathaniel Hawthorne,
by Horatio Bridge, 1893


IN 1860, Hawthorne and his family returned to America after a seven years' absence, and went at once to "The Wayside," his Concord home, where he resided until his decease.

The following letter shows his deep thankfulness for the preservation of the lives of Mrs. Hawthorne and the children during their long absence abroad:

"CONCORD, MASS., July 3, 1860.

"DEAR BRIDGE,--Your letter has just reached me; not unexpectedly, for I felt quite sure that I should soon hear from you.

"We came hither directly on landing from the steamer. I have not left Mrs. Hawthorne behind, nor any one else that belongs to me, for which I heartily thank God. It is a blessing which, at one time, I scarcely hoped for.

"My friends tell me that I am very little changed, but, of course, seven years have done their work. The most perceptible alteration is a moustache of Italian growth.

"If you will give me timely notice I shall come to Boston to meet you. Give all our kindest regards to Mrs. Bridge, and believe me your friend-as thirty-five years ago.



Hawthorne, on his return from Europe, found the nation embroiled in an angry controversy between the two great political parties of the day, and he viewed with the utmost solicitude the premonitory symptoms of civil war, apparent in the press and in Congress.

Early in the year next following the war-cloud burst, and the struggle continued for four years of tremendous effort and sacrifice on the part of those who strove to destroy the Union, as well as of their opponents, who, happily, were able to preserve it.


It is well known that Hawthorne was a Democrat in principle. He was, however, neither extreme nor narrow in his views, nor did he ever take an active part in political controversies. His "Life of Pierce" was written from personal friendship and the true spirit of comradeship. Political preference had little controlling force in the matter.

In regard to Hawthorne's politics, let me here revert to our college days and to the Presidential election of 1824, which was preceded by the usual political excitements, into which boys, as well as men, entered zealously. The students showed their individual preferences as strongly as, and much more disinterestedly than, the average voter at the outside polls. At that time Pierce, Cilley, Hawthorne, and the writer were enthusiastic supporters of General Jackson.

In later years, when the doctrine of abolition was prominently brought forward, Hawthorne, like conservative men of all parties, was outspoken against it. He held that the Constitution was valid and binding upon all the States, and that no one who did not recognize a higher law could honestly interfere with the institutions of the Southern States, as guaranteed to them by the Constitution.

But when the South declared for disunion, and fired on the old flag at Fort Sumter, Hawthorne, as did most Northern Democrats, unhesitatingly took his stand with the North, and strongly espoused the cause of the Union.

Like many other loyal men, he almost despaired of success; but he wished to "fight to the death for the Northern slave States, and let the rest go." He had no sympathy with the South during the rebellion, but he rejoiced in every Union victory, and approved and applauded the granting of liberal military supplies, and the vigorous prosecution of the war. In short, he was a Democrat before the rebellion, a War Democrat after it broke out.

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