To President-elect James A. Garfield, in Washington:
HARTFORD, Jany. 12, '81. GEN. GARFIELD
DEAR SIR,--Several times since your election persons wanting office have asked me "to use my influence" with you in their behalf.
To word it in that way was such a pleasant compliment to me that I never complied. I could not without exposing the fact that I hadn't any influence with you and that was a thing I had no mind to do.
It seems to me that it is better to have a good man's flattering estimate of my influence--and to keep it--than to fool it away with trying to get him an office. But when my brother--on my wife's side--Mr. Charles J. Langdon--late of the Chicago Convention--desires me to speak a word for Mr. Fred Douglass, I am not asked "to use my influence" consequently I am not risking anything. So I am writing this as a simple citizen. I am not drawing on my fund of influence at all. A simple citizen may express a desire with all propriety, in the matter of a recommendation to office, and so I beg permission to hope that you will retain Mr. Douglass in his present office of Marshall of the District of Columbia, if such a course will not clash with your own preferences or with the expediencies and interest of your administration. I offer this petition with peculiar pleasure and strong desire, because I so honor this man's high and blemishless character and so admire his brave, long crusade for the liberties and elevation of his race.
He is a personal friend of mine, but that is nothing to the point, his history would move me to say these things without that, and I feel them too. With great respect I am, General, Yours truly, S. L. CLEMENS.
Clemens would go out of his way any time to grant favor to the colored race. His childhood associations were partly accountable for this, but he also felt that the white man owed the negro a debt for generations of enforced bondage. He would lecture any time in a colored church, when he would as likely as not refuse point-blank to speak for a white congregation. Once, in Elmira, he received a request, poorly and none too politely phrased, to speak for one of the churches. He was annoyed and about to send a brief refusal, when Mrs. Clemens, who was present, said:
"I think I know that church, and if so this preacher is a colored man; he does not know how to write a polished letter--how should he?" Her husband's manner changed so suddenly that she added: "I will give you a motto, and it will be useful to you if you will adopt it: Consider every man colored until he is proved white."