James G. Birney, the anti-slavery
nominee for the presidency of the United States, joined us in New York,
and was a fellow-passenger on the Montreal for England. He and my
husband were delegates to the World's Anti-slavery Convention, and both
interested themselves in my anti-slavery education. They gave me books
to read, and, as we paced the deck day by day, the question was the
chief theme of our conversation.
Mr. Birney was a polished gentleman of the old school, and was
excessively proper and punctilious in manner and conversation. I soon
perceived that he thought I needed considerable toning down before
reaching England. I was quick to see and understand that his criticisms
of others in a general way and the drift of his discourses on manners
and conversation had a nearer application than he intended I should
discover, though he hoped I would profit by them. I was always grateful
to anyone who took an interest in my improvement, so I laughingly told
him, one day, that he need not make his criticisms any longer in that
roundabout way, but might take me squarely in hand and polish me up as
speedily as possible. Sitting in the saloon at night after a game of
chess, in which, perchance, I had been the victor, I felt complacent
and would sometimes say:
"Well, what have I said or done to-day open to criticism?"
So, in the most gracious manner, he replied on one occasion:
"You went to the masthead in a chair, which I think very unladylike. I
heard you call your husband 'Henry' in the presence of strangers, which
is not permissible in polite society. You should always say 'Mr.
Stanton.' You have taken three moves back in this game."
"Bless me!" I replied, "what a catalogue in one day! I fear my Mentor
will despair of my ultimate perfection."
"I should have more hope," he replied, "if you seemed to feel my rebukes
more deeply, but you evidently think them of too little consequence to
be much disturbed by them."
As he found even more fault with my husband, we condoled with each other
and decided that our friend was rather hypercritical and that we were as
nearly perfect as mortals need be for the wear and tear of ordinary
life. Being both endowed with a good degree of self-esteem, neither the
praise nor the blame of mankind was overpowering to either of us. As the
voyage lasted eighteen days--for we were on a sailing vessel--we had
time to make some improvement, or, at least, to consider all friendly
I was quite happy to find this link again. I came to speak of this relationship often but wasn't quite sure where it came from. This link gives a more definite source.