ABOUT John Charles Frémont's cradle hung as dark clouds as have surrounded the infancy of any notable American--the clouds of illegitimacy, poverty, and total uncertainty of the future. In his veins ran the blood of a strange and far from auspicious union; the union of an impulsive, warm-hearted, and wilful Virginia girl, and of a roving, adventurous, erratic French émigré. His earliest years were spent in wanderings from state to state, town to town, with his parents; from Georgia to Tennessee, from Virginia to South Carolina.
All this was a fitting overture to one of the stormiest, the most erratic, and the most adventurous of American careers. There are two great elements of interest in Frémont's biography. One lies simply in the unfailing drama of his life; a life romantically wrought out of the fiercest tempests and most radiant bursts of sunshine. From birth to death fortune gave him one sustained adventure. His fate carried him along our wildest frontiers, into the clash of national ambitions in the Far West, up to the higher reaches of party politics, through the thick of the Civil War, and into the thorniest jungles of post-bellum finance. It was no mean destiny. To explore more of the West than any other single man, to be a leading figure in the conquest of California, to be the first candidate of a great party for the Presidency, to pen a book that helped in molding now-populous communities, to rise from poverty to millions and sink to poverty again, to leave a name written across the geography of one-third of the continent--this constitutes an absorbing story. It tells us much of the United