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News of 150 Years Ago—September/October 1860


Sepember/October 1860

The year 1860 was a census year, and by September, preliminary results were available. St. Louis had doubled in population during the 1850s, spurred by a large influx of German and Irish immigrants during that decade. The DEMOCRAT gleefully reported the returns. Carondelet, incorporated as a city in 1851, was annexed to the City of St. Louis in 1870.

From The Missouri Democrat, Tuesday, September 4, 1860.

St. Louis the Queen City of the West.


The census returns are not yet completed, but enough has been gained from the Marshals to enable us to state, with tolerable correctness, the actual population of St. Louis….

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Army Capt. Thomas Jackson Rodman had been experimenting with casting large iron cannon at the Fort Pitt Foundry in Pittsburgh throughout the 1850s. His work resulted in the War Department’s approval for construction of a 15-inch smoothbore columbiad of his design in 1859, which apparently was nicknamed after Secretary of War John B. Floyd. This was the first of a long series of large guns which became the mainstay of U.S. coastal defense artillery for many years.

From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, September 5, 1860.

First Firing of the Great Floyd Gun.

[Correspondence of the New York Times.]

OLD POINT COMFORT, (Va.) August 29.

The curiosity of the artillery officers, and of the guests at Old Point was gratified yesterday by the first firing of the great “Floyd” Gun, of which I have before spoken…..

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Oil had been seeping out of the earth in Pennsylvania for centuries, but until the 1850’s, no one knew of any commercial use for it. When a Yale chemist determined that crude oil could be processed to produce a high-quality lamp oil, Edwin Drake, backed by a group of Yankee financiers, went to Pennsylvania to look for oil. On August 28, 1859, their well struck oil, and the Pennsylvania oil boom began. Inexpensive kerosene quickly replaced whale oil as the fuel of choice for illuminating lamps in America, despite the fact that a new lamp had to be purchased to use the new fuel. Many reenactors have seen the treasures of the steamboat Arabia in Kansas City. It sank in 1856, and its cargo included only whale oil lamps. Fewer have seen the treasures of the steamboat Bertrand near Omaha. It sank April 1, 1865, and its cargo included only kerosene lamps. The conversion happened that quickly.

From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, September 5, 1860.

THE OIL FEVER IN PENNSYLVANIA—THE GREAT TIDEOUT WELL.—We are permitted to make the following extract from a letter written under date of “Franklin, Venango county, Pa., Aug. 18th,” to a friend in this city:

“The oil excitement in this section of the State is very great. The whole region is swarming with “oil diggers.”…

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As the November 1860 Presidential election approached, campaign activity increased in Missouri. Despite being a slave state, Missouri listed all four Presidential candidates on its ballot.

From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, September 12, 1860.



Speeches by Hon. F. P. Blair, Jr., W. V. N. Bay, Esq., J. C. G. Heinrich, Madison Miller, Esq., James Peckham and A. J. Masterson.


At an early hour Monday morning, six cars loaded with Wide Awakes and other Republicans left for Pilot Knob and Ironton. Pilot Knob is at the terminus of the Iron Mountain Railroad, 89 miles south of this city, and Ironton is a thriving town, the county seat of Iron county, one mile south of Pilot Knob….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Thursday, September 20, 1860.

Anti-Republicanism Re-inforced—The Movement of the Abolitionists to defeat Lincoln.

We notice that several Democratic newspapers, which, but very lately, were overwhelmed with blank despair, seem to discern a ray of hope in a new quarter. The Abolitionists in their National Convention, which met at Syracuse, nominated a Presidential ticket—Gerritt Smith, of New York, for President, and Samuel McFarland, of Pennsylvania, for Vice President—and it is thought by the anti-Republican organs that this ticket may subtract a sufficient number of votes from the Republican ticket to defeat Lincoln and Hamlin. There can be no doubt that the movement was set on foot with that view. Shortly after his nomination, Mr. Lincoln was denounced by Wendell Phillips as a slave-hound….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, September 21, 1860.

Old Things With New Names—Benton Democracy and Republicanism Identical.

We are all of us too apt to forget that the principles of the Republican party governed the politics of Missouri from the very beginning down to the overthrow of Benton; that they constitute no new doctrine imported from the East, but on the contrary that they are nature to the soul, and like banished heirs, are but now returning to oust the usurpers and re-establish themselves in the hearts of the people. Democrats speak of the revolutionary designs and principles of the Republican party, but the truth is the Republican movement is simply a counter revolution against Calhounism….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Monday, October 1, 1860.

Bell’s Record.

Since the Constitutional Union party is without a platform, we must look for its principles in the record of its candidate for the Presidency. That record has been recently compiled by a committee of Mr. Bell’s political friends, and has appeared in all or most of the journals which support him, including the Evening News.
Having no platform, the leaders of the new party have found it all the more essential to furnish the public with a full and exact record of Mr. Bell’s political life….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Monday, October 1, 1860.

Seward in St. Louis.

Gov. Seward, Gen. Nye, and the ladies and gentlemen who accompany them, arrived here Saturday night from St. Joseph by railroad. Their advent was unexpected until a late hour—too late altogether for making any adequate preparations for a public reception. It was the particular wish of Mr. Seward to come to St. Louis unheralded and unannounced, so that his entrance and exit might be as private as possible. He must, however, be aware that it is next to impossible for a person of his position and reputation to go through the country as a mere private citizen….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, October 3, 1860.

Suicidal Policy of the Breckinridge Men.

As the State elections, which generally govern the issue of the Presidential election, draw near, the panic-makers ply their task with renewed zeal. The disunion gong is sounded again. The harsh thunder is echoed and re-echoed on all sides by party organs merely for purposes of intimidation. We do not deny there are disunionists in the South, but yet would affirm that their rash declarations would be suffered to pass unnoticed, if shallow, blind, demoralized party managers did not labor under the delusion that the people of the free States can be deterred from exercising the suffrage in accordance with their convictions….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Saturday, October 6, 1860.



ST. LOUIS, Sept. 31 [sic], 1860.

Allen P. Richardson, Esq., President of the Republican Club, Jefferson City, Mo.

DEAR SIR: Your letter inviting me, on behalf of the Republicans of your city and county, to deliver them “an address on the political topics agitating the public mind,” has been received. I have not, for some time, engaged actively in political affairs, and had not thought of doing so during this canvass. Not supposing that I could be of any great service to the country in that capacity, I have been content to leave that task to others, abler and better qualified than myself, and to follow quietly the walks of my profession, where duty and inclination both lead me….

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The Republican campaign in 1860 included the formation of a group called the Wide-Awakes, a paramilitary organization which held pro-Republican rallies and demonstrations nationwide. As the Republican organ in St. Louis, the DEMOCRAT reported on the origins and activities of the group.

From The Missouri Democrat, Saturday, September 22, 1860.



The Grand National Demonstration in Prospect.

[New York Herald, Sept. 19.]

The greatest feature of the campaign of 1860 has been the introduction of a vast Republican auxiliary, semi-military in character, political in purpose, and daily increasing in strength and influence to an extent unparalleled in the political annals of our country. We refer to the organization known as the Republican Wide Awakes, who made their first New York demonstration on the 12th inst. The sleepy Gotham politicians, who were discussing on that evening, over their ale, the all absorbing topics of fusion, squatter sovereignty, secession, Black Republicanism, and the Jones’ Wood demonstration, giving, perhaps, a side thought to the ratification meeting at the Cooper Institute, were startled out of all propriety by the sudden brilliant illumination of our thoroughfares, and the appearance of large bodies of men, bearing blazing torches and ;marching in fine military order towards the assigned rendezvous of their various divisions….

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Alexander H. Stephens served as U.S. Representative from Georgia from 1843 to 1859, when he retired from the House.  As a prominent, and as yet anti-secessionist, politician, his views on the political situation were sought out by the press before the 1860 election.  Four months after this interview, he became Vice President of the Confederacy, and a month later delivered the infamous “Cornerstone Speech” defending slavery as the foundation of the Confederacy.

From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, October 3, 1860.


What he thinks of the Present Political Aspect—A Ride through his Plantation—Visit from Toombs, the Disunionist.

[Correspondence of the N. Y. Herald.]

CRAWFORDSVILLE, Taliaferro Co., Ga.,
September 26, 1860.

Leaving his baggage at the humble inn in this little village, which numbers but three hundred inhabitants, white and black, your correspondent inquired the direction to the residence of the Hon. Alexander H. Stephens, the best beloved politician in the State of Georgia. Walking to the corner of a street, a short distance from the inn, our informant pointed in a northerly direction, and said,

“There is Mr. Stephens’ house, where that white gate is, where you see that light”—for the sun had set, and the curtains of night were closing around. In a few minutes your correspondent found himself within the enclosure and walking up a broad avenue toward Mr. Stephens’ house. Upon a capacious porch in front of the dwelling, a fine hound dog bayed deep-mouthed warning that a stranger was approaching; but cries of “Down, pup!” “Be quiet, pup!” quieted the dog, and we entered the house….

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As it became clearer that Lincoln would probably be elected in November, the question of how the Southern states would respond assumed greater importance.

From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, October 5, 1860.

Union or Disunion.

The Bulletin complains that we are stigmatising [sic] some of the leading Democrats of the South as secessionists. We are glad to learn from our contemporary that it considers the epithet secessionist a stigma. This shows the right spirit; it is politic too, for no party in this State which commits itself in any degree to disunion can hold its ground. Yet the Bulletin is not as explicit as we could wish. It tells us that the election of Lincoln would be the commencement of a crisis fatal to our national peace….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, October 19, 1860.

No Other Paper has the News—Preparations for Secession Completed.

We find in an Oregon (Mo.) paper, the following startling intelligence. It is singular that no other paper has the news, but perhaps the editor has been to see Yancey, Keitt and Pryor, and let the cat out of the bag too soon. In the meantime, we hope our Oregon disunionist will settle up his affairs as soon as possible, for in the event of Lincoln’s election, this State may be too hot to hold him….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Tuesday, October 23, 1860.

The Pretext for the Secession Agitation.

This is not the first time in our history that the dark clouds of nullification and secession have appeared on the horizon. There have been disunionists ever since the Constitution was adopted. Thirty years ago South Carolina assumed a position towards Jackson like that which she threatens to assume towards Lincoln. The tariff was the pretended grievance then, as the anti-slavery sentiment of the Republican party is now. The latter is used as a pretext just as
the former was; and it is well known that slavery agitation was substituted for the tariff agitation in Southern politics, on the failure of the other Southern States to sustain South Carolina in her nullification attitude. It was apparent that the tariff question would never produce a united South. The agitators forthwith shifted their ground and entrenched themselves in the fortress of slavery, and from that day to this, slavery propagandism, alternating with
threats of secession, has constituted the politics of the Calhoun school—a school that under the present and the preceding administration has governed the country….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, October 10, 1860.

ANOTHER DISUNIONIST.—Hon. John Forsyth, editor of the Mobile Register, and leader of the Douglas party in Alabama, only a few days since, in a letter to W. S. Samford, said:



Despite such pronouncements, the Northern press continued to express the belief that the South would never go through with it. They put forth a variety of reasons why it would not be in the South’s self-interest to break away from the Union.

From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, October 17, 1860.

May not an American Citizen be President of the United States.

[Philadelphia Press, October 4th.]

The grave question is presently to be decided whether a citizen of the United States constitutionally elected to the Presidency, shall be permitted to perform the functions of that high office? We notice daily signs in the Southern papers, and read frequent letters from Southern politicians, all tending to one point, viz.: That if Mr. Lincoln should be elected it will become the duty of the Southern people to make instant preparations for a secession from the Union….

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In 1860, some States held Congressional elections earlier than the Presidential election. In October 1860, Ohio and Pennsylvania held Congressional elections and returned delegations with large, although slightly reduced, Republican majorities. Since these were large swing States, most observers took these results to mean that Lincoln would be elected.

From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, October 19, 1860.

Lincoln’s Election Conceded.

The Election of Lincoln and Political Complexion of the Next Congress—Advice to the Financiers.

[From the New York Herald.]

There is no question of a doubt but that the recent election in Pennsylvania settles the Presidential question and place Abraham Lincoln in the Presidential chair. Our New York merchants and financiers may as well look this fact fairly and squarely in the face, for no other version can be placed upon the result in the Keystone State. The best thing that they can now do is to lock their money upon their vaults and keep it out of the hands of the politicians. The Republicans need no funds or speakers, and their opponents cannot change the result with the fortunes of a Rothschild. The jig is up; gentlemen, look at it as you will….

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As the northernmost slave state, Missouri would be in a precarious position if the South seceded. The DEMOCRAT addressed this issue in the following editorial.

From The Missouri Democrat, Saturday, October 27, 1860.

Secession and the Border Slave States.

The plan of the Disunionist faction notoriously contemplates the sacrifice of the border slave States, more especially the sacrifice of slavery in these States. It is evident in the event of civil war, the slave property of Missouri, for instance, would not be worth ten cents on the dollar. In the panic which would ensue, the slaves of this State would be precipitated into the Southern market, where they would have to be given away rather than sold. A communication in the Richmond Whig, to which an article, which we copy from the Louisville Journal, refers, shows this in a plain light. There is no feature in the secession programme more repulsive than the attitude assumed towards the slave States north of the cotton region. These States are to serve merely as the barrier behind which the disunion faction is to carry out its schemes in safety….

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Discussion also arose regarding how the slaves in the South would react to the election of Lincoln.

From The Missouri Democrat, Thursday, October 25, 1860.

Disquietude of the Slaves—The True Cause of the Distemper.

It is not surprising that the political storms, raging on the high plain of the citizen, should in some degree disturb the atmosphere of the lower one occupied by the slave. When the live thunder leaps from the high places of the land it is heard in the most secluded vale and the deepest ravine. The recent rumors of negro plots here and there are just what might be expected at this time. They are the first fruits of that studied misrepresentation of the Republican cause in which the Southern press and Southern orators have recklessly indulged for years, and especially since the opening of this Presidential campaign. We do not doubt that in some localities the slaves are disquieted….

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The DEMOCRAT regularly filled out its columns with snippets from other newspapers, like this example.

From The Missouri Democrat, Thursday, October 4, 1860.

WE would impress upon the public recollection, that James Buchanan has still about six months to serve as President of the United States.  We mention this because he has subsided and died out so completely from the popular attention, that the historical fact of his occupying the White House might escape the public memory, if it were not jogged now and then.—Louisville Journal.


Albert Edward, the eldest son of Britain’s Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert, was 18 years old when he became the first heir to the British throne to make a tour of North America. He toured Canada and the United States from late July until mid-October 1860, stopping in St. Louis in late September. The entire tour caused a sensation everywhere he went, and St. Louis was no exception.

From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, September 8, 1860.

The Progress of the Prince—How Shall he be Received in St. Louis?

We acknowledge our backwardness in discussing these, the supreme questions of the day, but our devotion to the Republican party, and the commercial and manufacturing interests of St. Louis, including the erection of elevators must be our apology. We take it for granted the Prince will come here. St. Louis, the largest inland city in the United States, will be the Ultima Thule of his Western wanderings; the banks of the Mississippi at this point, his Pillars of Hercules…..

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From The Missouri Democrat, Tuesday, September 25, 1860


Then Next Heads of Great Britain and of the United States.


[Special Correspondence of the Missouri Democrat.]

CHICAGO, Saturday Evening, 22d.

Seldom, indeed, would it be possible for a person in one day to see the next sovereign of the British nation, and the next President of the United States in the same day, and same State. Yet I did this yesterday. In the midst of the bustle and excitement, existing here, I will devote a few moments to writing you something about it….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Thursday, September 27, 1860.


His Trip Down the River from Alton.


Man is by nature regal and princely. Democracy is the cordial recognition of this fact, and seeks not to uncrown men, except by crowning all men. Heaven meant mankind for a race of kings and queens, princes and princesses, and to realize that end is the aim of Democracy. In ages of rudeness, homage to the royal character of some men was a step toward the general culture of such character. In our time and in this country we claim to have emerged from that period of pupilage—to have done adulating—and to have become—kings.,,,

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From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, September 28, 1860.


He Drives through the Principal Streets,
and then Proceeds to the Fair Grounds.


He Views the City from the Court House Dome.


The prince entertained visitors at his rooms in Barnum’s Hotel, until 12½ o’clock on Wednesday night. Numbers of our citizens called upon him, and were received with great urbanity. He was the recipient, during the night, of two delightful serenades.

The public having been notified through the morning papers of the time of the departure of the Prince from the hotel, for the Fair Grounds, a large crowd gathered at the corner of Walnut and Second streets, to witness his entrance to his carriage. At eleven o’clock a handsome barouche, with four black horses, driven by Mr. Jesse Arnot, reined up in front of the ladies’ entrance to the hotel, and in a few minutes thereafter the royal visitor, accompanied by Lord Lyons, the Duke of Newcastle, and Mayor Filley, came down the steps, and took their seats in it….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, October 17, 1860.


A “Magnificent Affair—The Decorations Costing $10,000.




The ball given by the citizens of New York on the night of the 12th inst., at the Academy of Music, is regarded as the most magnificent affair of the kind that has taken place in this or any other country. The New York papers of the 13th are filled with the accounts—the Herald leading off with the longest and raciest.

The company had hardly assembled when [t]wo magnificent flower vases, suspended from the proscenium, fell and broke. The audience had hardly recovered from that surprise when the dancing floor gave way with a great crash, fortunately injuring no one, however. As the crowd retired, frightened, to various parts of the floor, it gave way beneath them….

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The Prince of Wales was not the only attraction at the Fairgrounds in September 1860. The DEMOCRAT reported on a technological marvel also on display there.

From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, September 28, 1860.

The Huge Steam Plow—Its advent on the Fair Grounds—Additional Excitement.

In this great city we have become used to look placidly upon certain things that once were deemed monstrous affairs. The “Old Smoke Thunderer,” whose volcanic heavings were wont to excite apprehensions wherever they were heard, and whose appearance was the signal for a wondering crowd, now passes through the streets almost unnoticed, as the Old Union No. 2. But another mirabile monstrum, a genuine metaphorical “elephant,” something immensum infinitumque, yesterday reared its portentous front, advanced with mystic force, and excited a grand sensation, of mingled curiosity, wonder and fear, among the holiday multitudes who yesterday went to see the Prince at the Fair Grounds….

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In keeping its readers abreast of cultural developments, the DEMOCRAT regularly announced and reviewed new books. A television adaptation of The Woman in White appeared on PBS in 2018.

From The Missouri Democrat, Saturday, September 8, 1860.


Receive[d] of Gray & Crawford, 90 Fourth Street.

THE WOMAN IN WHITE: A Novel by Wilkie Collins.

The master of the marvelous, in these days, is Wilkie Collins. This, his last novel, is, also, his best—particularly so in his peculiar excellence. The hero of the work is Count Fosco, an Italian, who is cast in the mould of the Borgias, and the Visconti. Endowed with extraordinary powers of mind, and familiar with all that is calculated to make a consummate man of the world, he is overmatched at last, and subdued by the honest purpose and indomitable energy of a plain Englishman, Walter Hartright; aided by the devotion of Marion Harlan, her half-sister, who is the victim of the Count’s machinations, and the villainy of her own husband. Marion Harlan is just as distinct a creation as Fosco, but all the characters are drawn with marked outlines. We commend the work to lovers of fiction.


Washington University in St. Louis was less than ten years old in 1860 but was quickly gaining respect. Founded in 1853 through the efforts of Wayman Crow and William Greenleaf Eliot, the school settled on the title Washington University in 1856. This announcement noted the addition to the physics faculty of John Schofield, formerly an instructor at West Point, who would return to service with the U.S. Army in less than a year.

From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, September 12, 1860.

Washington University

The fall term of this flourishing institution opened on Monday, in its several departments, in accordance with the notice in our advertising columns. We have heretofore borne witness to its eminent advantages, of which it would seem that our citizens are showing their increasing appreciation….

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As a leading local paper, the DEMOCRAT daily reported the mundane goings-on in St. Louis. This is a representative sample from 1860.

From The Missouri Democrat, Monday, October 1, 1860.



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The condition of the streets has always been a concern to local residents. The mid-19th century saw a wide variety of methods to turn mud streets into something more civilized.

From The Missouri Democrat, Thursday, September 27, 1860.


[For the Missouri Democrat.]

Among all the objects by which the attention of the people of this city is at present attracted, not the least worthy of such attention is the Nicholson pavement, which is now being laid upon Walnut street, in front of Barnum’s Hotel. It is made of oak blocks, 2½ inches thick by 6 inches long, set with their ends resting upon inch boards, which are laid on the ground….

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Besides printing local news items, the DEMOCRAT filled out its columns with short pieces of varying importance.  It is unclear what the charges leveled against Gen. Harney were.

From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, October 5, 1860.


A BOSTON girl writes from Niagara Falls that the Prince of Wales has “whopping big feet,”—that he is short, and “don’t look like the pictures any more than she does.”  How does she look?

WHEN Mr. Spurgeon got back from his continental tour, he told his congregation how he saw the elephant.  He described the great gambling palace at Baden, and said that while the game was making, the temptation to “chip in” was almost irresistible.

GEN. HARNEY is still at Washington.  Separate and distinct charges and specifications, of the most serious nature, have been preferred against him by Capt. Jordan, Quartermaster’s Department; Lieut. Welcker, Ordnance Department; Lieut. Hodges, Fourth Infantry, and Lieut. De Hart, Third Artillery,—the burden of which is “conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman,” and “tyrannical use and abuse of authority.”