In the States, senators, mayors, governors, and local dignitaries all graved the various head tables. The New York gathering invited President James Buchanan to attend but he turned them down because of the press of public duties. He managed to send a message: “Poor Burns. I have always deplored his sad fate. He has ever been a favorite of mine. The child of genius and of misfortune, he is read everywhere and by all classes throughout the extent of our country, and his natural pathos has reached all hearts.” The Washington D.C., Burns club also invited Buchanan to attend and received a similar reply.
The Burns Club of New York City invited Reverend [H.W.] Beecher to speak, and the crowd filled the twenty-five-hundred eat Cooper Institute— the same locale where Lincoln would charm his first eastern audience a year later— to overflowing. In his oration, Beecher noted that half the civilized world, plus the entire community of belle lettres, had come together that evening to celebrate a farmer’s son who had taken the message of Scotland “into the world.” Noting that Burns had almost emigrated to the West Indies, he scoffed at the idea that the bard could have followed a gang of slaves, whip in hand, while chanting “A man’s a man for a’ that” at which the audience applauded. Beecher closed with the observation, “As for his faults, let them be forgotten.”
New York Calling
"By turns tender and irate
whimsical and reflective, it's
a great guide to Gotham's recent history."
-- Mike Wallace, co-author
of the Pulitzer Prize winning Gotham: A History of New York
City to 1898