While Congress was encouraging devotion to the Union, and its Committees striving for some mode by which the impending perils might be averted without a wholesale surrender of all just principles, the South Carolina Convention met (December 17, 1860) at Columbia, and after listening to inflammatory addresses by commissioners from the States of Alabama and Mississippi, urging immediate and unconditional Secession, unanimously and with "tremendous cheering" adopted a resolution: "That it is the opinion of the Convention that the State of South Carolina should forthwith Secede from the Federal Union, known as the United States of America,"—and then adjourned to meet at Charleston, South Carolina.
The next day, and following days, it met there, at "Secession Hall," listening to stimulating addresses, while a committee of seven worked upon the Ordinance of Secession. Among the statements made by orators, were several clear admissions that the rebellious Conspiracy had existed for very many years, and that Mr. Lincoln's election was simply the long-sought-for pretext for Rebellion. Mr. Parker said: "It is no spasmodic effort that has come suddenly upon us; it has been gradually culminating for a long period of thirty years. At last it has come to that point where we may say, the matter is entirely right." Mr. Inglis said: "Most of us have had this matter under consideration for the last twenty years; and I presume that we have by this time arrived at a decision upon the subject." Mr. Keitt said: "I have been engaged in this movement ever since I entered political life; * * * we have carried the body of this Union to its last resting place, and now we will drop the flag over its grave." Mr. Barnwell Rhett said: "The Secession of South Carolina is not an event of a day. It is not anything produced by Mr. Lincoln's election, or by the non-execution of the Fugitive Slave Law. It has been a matter which has been gathering head for thirty years." Mr. Gregg said: "If we undertake to set forth all the causes, do we not dishonor the memory of all the statesmen of South Carolina, now departed, who commenced forty years ago a war against the tariff and against internal improvement, saying nothing of the United States Bank, and other measures which may now be regarded as obsolete."
On the 20th of December, 1860—the fourth day of the sittings—the Ordinance of Secession was reported by the Committee, and was at once unanimously passed, as also was a resolution that "the passage of the Ordinance be proclaimed by the firing of artillery and ringing of the bells of the city, and such other demonstrations as the people may deem appropriate on the passage of the great Act of Deliverance and Liberty;" after which the Convention jubilantly adjourned to meet, and ratify, that evening. At the evening session of this memorable Convention, the Governor and Legislature attending, the famous Ordinance was read as engrossed, signed by all the delegates, and, after announcement by the President that "the State of South Carolina is now and henceforth a Free and Independent Commonwealth;" amid tremendous cheering, the Convention adjourned. This, the first Ordinance of Secession passed by any of the Revolting States, was in these words:
"An Ordinance to dissolve the Union between the State of South Carolina and other States united with her, under the compact entitled the 'Constitution of the United States of America.'
"We the people of the State of South Carolina in Convention assembled, do declare and ordain, and it is hereby declared and ordained, that the Ordinance adopted by us in Convention on the 23rd day of May, in the year of our Lord 1788, whereby the Constitution of the United States of America was ratified, and also all Acts and parts of Acts of the General Assembly of this State ratifying the amendments of the said Constitution, are hereby repealed; and that the Union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States, under the name of the United States of America, is hereby dissolved."
Thus, and in these words, was joyously adopted and ratified, that solemn Act of Separation which was doomed to draw in its fateful train so many other Southern States, in the end only to be blotted out with the blood of hundreds of thousands of their own brave sons, and their equally courageous Northern brothers.
State after State followed South Carolina in the mad course of Secession from the Union. Mississippi passed a Secession Ordinance, January 9, 1861. Florida followed, January 10th; Alabama, January 11th; Georgia, January 18th; Louisiana, January 26th; and Texas, February 1st; Arkansas, North Carolina, and Virginia held back until a later period; while Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Maryland, and Delaware, abstained altogether from taking the fatal step, despite all attempts to bring them to it.
In the meantime, however, South Carolina had put on all the dignity of a Sovereign and Independent State. Her Governor had a "cabinet" comprising Secretaries of State, War, Treasury, the Interior, and a Postmaster General. She had appointed Commissioners, to proceed to the other Slave-holding States, through whom a Southern Congress was proposed, to meet at Montgomery, Alabama; and had appointed seven delegates to meet the delegates from such other States in that proposed Southern Congress. On the 21st of December, 1860, three Commissioners (Messrs. Barnwell, Adams, and Orr) were also appointed to proceed to Washington, and treat for the cession by the United States to South Carolina, of all Federal property within the limits of the latter. On the 24th, Governor Pickens issued a Proclamation announcing the adoption of the Ordinance of Secession, declaring "that the State of South Carolina is, as she has a right to be, a separate sovereign, free and independent State, and as such, has a right to levy war, conclude peace, negotiate treaties, leagues or covenants, and to do all acts whatsoever that rightfully appertain to a free and independent State;" the which proclamation was announced as "Done in the eighty-fifth year of the Sovereignty and Independence of South Carolina." On the same day (the Senators from that State in the United States Senate having long since, as we have seen, withdrawn from that body) the Representatives of South Carolina in the United States House of Representatives withdrew.
Serious dissensions in the Cabinet of President Buchanan, were now rapidly disintegrating the "official family" of the President. Lewis Cass, the Secretary of State, disgusted with the President's cowardice and weakness, and declining to be held responsible for Mr. Buchanan's promise not to reinforce the garrisons of the National Forts, under Major Anderson, in Charleston harbor, retired from the Cabinet December 12th—Howell Cobb having already, "because his duty to Georgia required it," resigned the Secretaryship of the Treasury, and left it bankrupt and the credit of the Nation almost utterly destroyed.
On the 26th of December, Major Anderson evacuated Fort Moultrie, removing all his troops and munitions of war to Fort Sumter—whereupon a cry went up from Charleston that this was in violation of the President's promise to take no step looking to hostilities, provided the Secessionists committed no overt act of Rebellion, up to the close of his fast expiring Administration. On the 29th, John B. Floyd, Secretary of War, having failed to secure the consent of the Administration to an entire withdrawal of the Federal garrison from the harbor of Charleston, also resigned, and the next day—he having in the meantime escaped in safety to Virginia—was indicted by the Grand Jury at Washington, for malfeasance and conspiracy to defraud the Government in the theft of $870,000 of Indian Trust Bonds from the Interior Department, and the substitution therefor of Floyd's acceptances of worthless army-transportation drafts on the Treasury Department.
Jacob Thompson, Secretary of the Interior, also resigned, January 8th, 1861, on the pretext that "additional troops, he had heard, have been ordered to Charleston" in the "Star of the West."—[McPherson's History of the Rebellion, p. 28.]
Several changes were thus necessitated in Mr. Buchanan's cabinet, by these and other resignations, so that by the 18th of January, 1861, Jeremiah S. Black was Secretary of State; General John A. Dix, Secretary of the Treasury; Joseph Holt, Secretary of War; Edwin M. Stanton, Attorney General; and Horatio King, Postmaster General. But before leaving the Cabinet, the conspiring Southern members of it, and their friends, had managed to hamstring the National Government, by scattering the Navy in other quarters of the World; by sending the few troops of the United States to remote points; by robbing the arsenals in the Northern States of arms and munitions of war, so as to abundantly supply the Southern States at the critical moment; by bankrupting the Treasury and shattering the public credit of the Nation; and by other means no less nefarious. Thus swindled, betrayed, and ruined, by its degenerate and perfidious sons, the imbecile Administration stood with dejected mien and folded hands helplessly awaiting the coming catastrophe.
On December 28th, 1860, the three Commissioners of South Carolina having reached Washington, addressed to the President a communication, in which—after reciting their powers and duties, under the Ordinance of Secession, and stating that they had hoped to have been ready to proceed to negotiate amicably and without "hostile collision," but that "the events—[The removal, to Fort Sumter, of Major Anderson's command, and what followed.]—of the last twenty-four hours render such an assurance impossible"—they declared that the troops must be withdrawn from Charleston harbor, as "they are a standing menace which render negotiation impossible," threatening speedily to bring the questions involved, to "a bloody issue."
To this communication Mr. Buchanan replied at considerable length, December 30th, in an apologetic, self-defensive strain, declaring that the removal by Major Anderson of the Federal troops under his command, from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter was done "upon his own responsibility, and without authority," and that he (the President) "had intended to command him to return to his former position," but that events had so rapidly transpired as to preclude the giving of any such command;
[The seizure by the Secessionists, under the Palmetto Flag, of Castle Pinckney and Fort Moultrie; the simultaneous raising of that flag over the Federal Custom House and Post Office at Charleston; the resignation of the Federal Collector, Naval Officer and Surveyor of that Port—all of which occurred December 27th; and the seizure "by force of arms," December 30th, of the United States Arsenal at that point.]
and concluding, with a very slight stiffening of backbone, by saying: "After this information, I have only to add that, whilst it is my duty to defend Fort Sumter as a portion of the public property of the United States against hostile attacks, from whatever quarter they may come, by such means as I may possess for this purpose, I do not perceive how such a defense can be construed into a menace against the city of Charleston." To this reply of the President, the Commissioners made rejoinder on the 1st of January, 1861; but the President "declined to receive" the communication.
From this time on, until the end of President Buchanan's term of office, and the inauguration of Mr. Lincoln as President, March 4th, 1861, events crowded each other so hurriedly, that the flames of Rebellion in the South were continually fanned, while the public mind in the North was staggered and bewildered, by them.
On January 2nd, prior to the Secession of Georgia, Forts Pulaski and Jackson, commanding Savannah, and the Federal Arsenal at Augusta, Georgia, with two 12 pound howitzers, two cannon, 22,000 muskets and rifles, and ammunition in quantity, were seized by Rebel militia. About the same date, although North Carolina had not seceded, her Governor (Ellis) seized the Federal Arsenal at Fayetteville, Fort Macon, and other fortifications in that State, "to preserve them" from mob-seizure.
January 4th, anticipating Secession, Alabama State troops seized Fort Morgan, with 5,000 shot and shell, and Mount Vernon Arsenal at Mobile, with 2,000 stand of arms, 150, 000 pounds of powder, some pieces of cannon, and a large quantity of other munitions of war. The United States Revenue cutter, "Lewis Cass," was also surrendered to Alabama.
On the 5th, the Federal steamer "Star of the West," with reinforcements and supplies for Fort Sumter, left New York in the night—and Secretary Jacob Thompson notified the South Carolina Rebels of the fact.
On the 9th, the "Star of the West" appeared off Charleston bar, and while steaming toward Fort Sumter, was fired upon by Rebel batteries at Fort Moultrie and Morris Island, and struck by a shot, whereupon she returned to New York without accomplishing her mission. That day the State of Mississippi seceded from the Union.
On the 10th, the Federal storeship "Texas," with Federal guns and stores, was seized by Texans. On the same day Florida seceded.
On the 11th, Forts Jackson and St. Philip, commanding the mouth of the Mississippi River, and Fort Pike, dominating Lake Pontchartrain, were seized by Louisiana troops; also the Federal Arsenal at Baton Rouge, with 50,000 small arms, 4 howitzers, 20 heavy pieces of ordnance, 2 batteries, 300 barrels of powder, and other stores. The State of Alabama also seceded the same day.
On the 12th—Fort Marion, the coast surveying schooner "Dana," the Arsenal at St. Augustine, and that on the Chattahoochee, with 500,000 musket cartridges, 300,000 rifle cartridges and 50,000 pounds of powder, having previously been seized—Forts Barrancas and McRae, and the Navy Yard at Pensacola, were taken by Rebel troops of Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. On the same day, Colonel Hayne, of South Carolina, arrived at Washington as Agent or Commissioner to the National Government from Governor Pickens of that State.
On the 14th, the South Carolina Legislature resolved "that any attempt by the Federal Government to reinforce Fort Sumter will be regarded as an act of open hostility, and a Declaration of War."
On the 16th, Colonel Hayne, of South Carolina, developed his mission, which was to demand of the President the surrender of Fort Sumter to the South Carolina authorities—a demand that had already been made upon, and refused by, Major Anderson.
The correspondence concerning this demand, between Colonel Hayne and ten Southern United States Senators;—[Senators Wigfall, Hemphill, Yulee, Mallory, Jeff. Davis, C. C. Clay, Fitzgerald, Iverson, Slidell, and Benjamin.]—the reply of the President, by Secretary Holt, to those Senators; Governor Pickens's review of the same; and the final demand; consumed the balance of the month of January; and ended, February 6th, in a further reply, through the Secretary of War, from the President, asserting the title of the United States to that Fort, and declining the demand, as "he has no Constitutional power to cede or surrender it." Secretary Holt's letter concluded by saying: "If, with all the multiplied proofs which exist of the President's anxiety for Peace, and of the earnestness with which he has pursued it, the authorities of that State shall assault Fort Sumter, and peril the lives of the handful of brave and loyal men shut up within its walls, and thus plunge our Common Country into the horrors of Civil War, then upon them and those they represent, must rest the responsibility."
But to return from this momentary diversion: On the 18th of January, Georgia seceded; and on the 20th, the Federal Fort at Ship Island, Mississippi, and the United States Hospital on the Mississippi River were seized by Mississippi troops.
On the 26th, Louisiana seceded. On the 28th, Louisiana troops seized all the quartermaster's and commissary stores held by Federal officials; and the United States Revenue cutter "McClelland" surrendered to the Rebels.
On February 1st, the Louisiana Rebels seized the National Mint and Custom House at New Orleans, with $599,303 in gold and silver. On the same day the State of Texas seceded.
On February 8th, the National Arsenal at Little Rock, Arkansas, with 9,000 small arms, 40 cannon, and quantities of ammunition, was seized; and the same day the Governor of Georgia ordered the National Collector of the Port of Savannah to retain all collections and make no further payments to the United States Government.*
[It was during this eventful month that, certain United States troops having assembled at the National Capital, and the House of Representatives having asked the reason therefor, reply was made by the Secretary of War as follows:
"WAR DEPARTMENT, February 18, 1861. [Congressional Globe, August 8, 1861, pp. 457,458] "SIR: On the 11th February, the House of Representatives adopted a resolution requesting the President, if not incompatible with the public interests, to communicate 'the reasons that had induced him to assemble so large a number of troops in this city, and why they are kept here; and whether he has any information of a Conspiracy upon the part of any portion of the citizens of this Country to seize upon the Capital and prevent the Inauguration of the President elect.'
"This resolution having been submitted to this Department for consideration and report, I have the honor to state, that the body of troops temporarily transferred to this city is not as large as is assumed by the resolution, though it is a well-appointed corps and admirably adapted for the preservation of the public peace. The reasons which led to their being assembled here will now be briefly stated.
"I shall make no comment upon the origin of the Revolution which, for the last three months, has been in progress in several of the Southern States, nor shall I enumerate the causes which have hastened its advancement or exasperated its temper. The scope of the questions submitted by the House will be sufficiently met by dealing with the facts as they exist, irrespective of the cause from which they have proceeded. That Revolution has been distinguished by a boldness and completeness of success rarely equaled in the history of Civil Commotions. Its overthrow of the Federal authority has not only been sudden and wide-spread, but has been marked by excesses which have alarmed all and been sources of profound humiliation to a large portion of the American People. Its history is a history of surprises and treacheries and ruthless spoliations. The Forts of the United States have been captured and garrisoned, and hostile flags unfurled upon their ramparts. Its arsenals have been seized, and the vast amount of public arms they contained appropriated to the use of the captors; while more than half a million dollars, found in the Mint at New Orleans, has been unscrupulously applied to replenish the coffers of Louisiana. Officers in command of revenue cutters of the United States have been prevailed on to violate their trusts and surrender the property in their charge; and instead of being branded for their crimes, they, and the vessels they betrayed, have been cordially received into the service of the Seceded States. These movements were attended by yet more discouraging indications of immorality. It was generally believed that this Revolution was guided and urged on by men occupying the highest positions in the public service, and who, with the responsibilities of an oath to support the Constitution still resting upon their consciences, did not hesitate secretly to plan and openly to labor for, the dismemberment of the Republic whose honors they enjoyed and upon whose Treasury they were living. As examples of evil are always more potent than those of good, this spectacle of demoralization on the part of States and statesmen could not fail to produce the most deplorable consequences. The discontented and the disloyal everywhere took courage. In other States, adjacent to and supposed to sympathize in sense of political wrong with those referred to, Revolutionary schemes were set on foot, and Forts and arms of the United States seized. The unchecked prevalence of the Revolution, and the intoxication which its triumphs inspired, naturally suggested wilder and yet more desperate enterprises than the conquest of ungarrisoned Forts, or the plunder of an unguarded Mint. At what time the armed occupation of Washington City became a part of the Revolutionary Programme, is not certainly known. More than six weeks ago, the impression had already extensively obtained that a Conspiracy for the accomplishment of this guilty purpose was in process of formation, if not fully matured. The earnest endeavors made by men known to be devoted to the Revolution, to hurry Virginia and Maryland out of the Union, were regarded as preparatory steps for the subjugation of Washington. This plan was in entire harmony with the aim and spirit of those seeking the subversion of the Government, since no more fatal blow at its existence could be struck than the permanent and hostile possession of the seat of its power. It was in harmony, too, with the avowed designs of the Revolutionists, which looked to the formation of a Confederacy of all the Slave States, and necessarily to the Conquest of the Capital within their limits. It seemed not very indistinctly prefigured in a Proclamation made upon the floor of the Senate, without qualification, if not exultingly, that the Union was already dissolved—a Proclamation which, however intended, was certainly calculated to invite, on the part of men of desperate fortunes or of Revolutionary States, a raid upon the Capital. In view of the violence and turbulent disorders already exhibited in the South, the public mind could not reject such a scheme as at all improbable. That a belief in its existence was entertained by multitudes, there can be no doubt, and this belief I fully shared. My conviction rested not only on the facts already alluded to, but upon information, some of which was of a most conclusive character, that reached the Government from many parts of the Country, not merely expressing the prevalence of the opinion that such an organization had been formed, but also often furnishing the plausible grounds on which the opinion was based. Superadded to these proofs, were the oft-repeated declarations of men in high political positions here, and who were known to have intimate affiliations with the Revolution—if indeed they did not hold its reins in their hands—to the effect that Mr. Lincoln would not, or should not be inaugurated at Washington. Such declarations, from such men, could not be treated as empty bluster. They were the solemn utterances of those who well understood the import of their words, and who, in the exultation of the temporary victories gained over their Country's flag in the South, felt assured that events would soon give them the power to verify their predictions. Simultaneously with these prophetic warnings, a Southern journal of large circulation and influence, and which is published near the city of Washington, advocated its seizure as a possible political necessity.
"The nature and power of the testimony thus accumulated may be best estimated by the effect produced upon the popular mind. Apprehensions for the safety of the Capital were communicated from points near and remote, by men unquestionably reliable and loyal. The resident population became disquieted, and the repose of many families in the city was known to be disturbed by painful anxieties. Members of Congress, too-men of calm and comprehensive views, and of undoubted fidelity to their Country—frankly expressed their solicitude to the President and to this Department, and formally insisted that the defenses of the Capital should be strengthened. With such warnings, it could not be forgotten that, had the late Secretary of War heeded the anonymous letter which he received, the tragedy at Harper's Ferry would have been avoided; nor could I fail to remember that, had the early admonitions which reached here in regard to the designs of lawless men upon the Forts of Charleston Harbor been acted on by sending forward adequate reinforcements before the Revolution began, the disastrous political complications that ensued might not have occurred.
"Impressed by these circumstances and considerations, I earnestly besought you to allow the concentration, at this city, of a sufficient military force to preserve the public peace from all the dangers that seemed to threaten it. An open manifestation, on the part of the Administration, of a determination, as well as of the ability, to maintain the laws, would, I was convinced, prove the surest, as also the most pacific, means of baffling and dissolving any Conspiracy that might have been organized. It was believed too that the highest and most solemn responsibility resting upon a President withdrawing from the Government, was to secure to his successor a peaceful Inauguration. So deeply, in my judgment, did this duty concern the whole Country and the fair fame of our Institutions, that, to guarantee its faithful discharge, I was persuaded no preparation could be too determined or too complete. The presence of the troops alluded to in the resolution is the result of the conclusion arrived at by yourself and Cabinet, on the proposition submitted to you by this Department. Already this display of life and loyalty on the part of your Administration, has produced the happiest effects. Public confidence has been restored, and the feverish apprehension which it was so mortifying to contemplate has been banished. Whatever may have been the machinations of deluded, lawless men, the execution of their purpose has been suspended, if not altogether abandoned in view of preparations which announce more impressively than words that this Administration is alike able and resolved to transfer in peace, to the President elect, the authority that, under the Constitution, belongs to him. To those, if such there be, who desire the destruction of the Republic, the presence of these troops is necessarily offensive; but those who sincerely love our Institutions cannot fail to rejoice that, by this timely precaution they have possibly escaped the deep dishonor which they must have suffered had the Capital, like the Forts and Arsenals of the South, fallen into the hands of the Revolutionists, who have found this great Government weak only because, in the exhaustless beneficence of its spirit, it has refused to strike, even in its own defense, lest it should wound the aggressor.
"I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
"J. HOLT. "Secretary of War,
On February 20th, Forts Chadbourne and Belknap were seized by the Texan Rebels; and on the 22nd, the Federal General Twiggs basely surrendered to them all the fortifications under his control, his little Army, and all the Government stores in his possession—comprising $55,000 in specie, 35,000 stand of arms, 26 pieces of mounted artillery, 44 dismounted guns, and ammunition, horses, wagons, forage, etc., valued at nearly $2,000,000.
On the 2nd of March, the Texan Rebels seized the United States Revenue cutter "Dodge" at Galveston; and on the 6th, Fort Brown was surrendered to them.
Thus, with surrender after surrender, and seizure after seizure, of its revenue vessels and fortifications and troops and arms and munitions of war in the Southern States—with Fort Sumter invested and at the mercy of any attack, and Fortress Monroe alone of all the National strongholds yet safe—with State after State seceding—what wonder that, while these events gave all encouragement to the Southern Rebels, the Patriots of the North stood aghast at the appalling spectacle of a crumbling and dissolving Union!
During this period of National peril, the debates in both branches of Congress upon propositions for adjustment of the unfortunate differences between the Southern Seceders and the Union, as has been already hinted, contributed still further to agitate the public mind. Speech after speech by the ablest and most brilliant Americans in public life, for or against such propositions, and discussing the rightfulness or wrongfulness of Secession, were made in Congress day after day, and, by means of the telegraph and the press, alternately swayed the Northern heart with feelings of hope, chagrin, elation or despair.
The Great Debate was opened in the Senate on almost the very first day of its session (December 4th, 1860), by Mr. Clingman, of North Carolina, who, referring to South Carolina, declared that "Instead of being precipitate, she and the whole South have been wonderfully patient." A portion of that speech is interesting even at this time, as showing how certain phases of the Tariff and Internal Improvement questions entered into the consideration of some of the Southern Secession leaders. Said he, "I know there are intimations that suffering will fall upon us of the South, if we secede. My people are not terrified by any such considerations. * * * They have no fears of the future if driven to rely on themselves. The Southern States have more territory than all the Colonies had when they Seceded from Great Britain, and a better territory. Taking its position, climate, and fertility into consideration, there is not upon Earth a body of territory superior to it. * * * The Southern States have, too, at this day, four times the population the Colonies had when they Seceded from Great Britain. Their exports to the North and to Foreign Countries were, last year, more than $300,000,000; and a duty of ten per cent. upon the same amount of imports would give $30,000,000 of revenue—twice as much as General Jackson's administration spent in its first year. Everybody can see, too, how the bringing in of $300,000,000 of imports into Southern ports would enliven business in our seaboard towns. I have seen with some satisfaction, also, Mr. President, that the war made upon us has benefitted certain branches of industry in my State. There are manufacturing establishments in North Carolina, the proprietors of which tell me that they are making fifty per cent. annually on their whole capital, and yet cannot supply one tenth of the demand for their production. The result of only ten per cent. duties in excluding products from abroad, would give life and impetus to mechanical and manufacturing industry, throughout the entire South. Our people understand these things, and they are not afraid of results, if forced to declare Independence. Indeed I do not see why Northern Republicans should wish to continue a connection with us upon any terms. * * * They want High Tariff likewise. They may put on five hundred per cent. if they choose, upon their own imports, and nobody on our side will complain. They may spend all the money they raise on railroads, or opening harbors, or anything on earth they desire, without interference from us; and it does seem to me that if they are sincere in their views they ought to welcome a separation."
From the very commencement of this long three-months debate, it was the policy of the Southern leaders to make it appear that the Southern States were in an attitude of injured innocence and defensiveness against Northern aggression. Hence, it was that, as early as December 5th, on the floor of the Senate, through Mr. Brown, of Mississippi, they declared: "All we ask is to be allowed to depart in Peace. Submit we will not; and if, because we will not submit to your domination, you choose to make War upon us, let God defend the Right!"
At the same time it was esteemed necessary to try and frighten the North into acquiescence with this demand to be "let alone." Hence such utterances as those of Clingman and Iverson, to which reference has already been made, and the especially defiant close of the latter's speech, when—replying to the temperate but firm Union utterances of Mr. Hale—the Georgia Senator said: "Sir, I do not believe there will be any War; but if War is to come, let it come; we will meet the Senator from New Hampshire and all the myrmidons of Abolitionism and Black Republicanism everywhere upon our own soil; and, in the language of a distinguished member from Ohio in relation to the Mexican War, we will 'welcome you with bloody hands to hospitable graves.'"
On the other hand, in order to encourage the revolting States to the speedy commission of overt acts of Rebellion and violence, that would precipitate War without a peradventure, utterances fell from Southern lips, in the National Senate Chamber, like those of Mr. Wigfall, when he said, during this first day of the debate: "Frederick the Great, on one occasion, when he had trumped up an old title to some of the adjacent territory, quietly put himself in possession and then offered to treat. Were I a South Carolinian, as I am a Texan, and I knew that my State was going out of the Union, and that this Government would attempt to use force, I would, at the first moment that that fact became manifest, seize upon the Forts and the arms and the munitions of war, and raise the cry 'To your tents, O Israel, and to the God of battles be this issue!"
And, as we have already seen, the Rebels of the South were not slow in following the baleful advice to the letter. But it was not many days after this utterance when the Conspirators against the Union evidently began to fear that the ground for Rebellion, upon which they had planted themselves, would be taken from under their feet by the impulse of Compromise and Concession which stirred so strongly the fraternal spirit of the North. That peaceful impulse must be checked and exasperated by sneers and impossible demands. Hence, on December 12th we find one of the most active and favorite mouthpieces of Treason, Mr. Wigfall, putting forth such demands, in his most offensive manner.
Said he: "If the two Senators from New York (Seward and King), the Senator from Ohio (Wade), the two Senators from Illinois (Douglas and Trumbull), the Senator from New Hampshire (Hale), the Senator from Maine, and others who are regarded as representative men, who have denied that by the Constitution of the United States, Slaves are recognized as Property; who have urged and advocated those acts which we regard as aggressive on the part of the People—if they will rise here, and say in their places, that they desire to propose amendments to the Constitution, and beg that we will vote for them; that they will, in good faith, go to their respective constituencies and urge the ratification; that they believe, if these Gulf States will suspend their action, that those amendments will be ratified and carried out in good faith; that they will cease preaching this 'irrepressible conflict'; and if, in those amendments, it is declared that Slaves are Property, that they shall be delivered up upon demand; and that they will assure us that Abolition societies shall be abolished; that Abolition speeches shall no longer be made; that we shall have peace and quiet; that we shall not be called cut-throats and pirates and murderers; that our women shall not be slandered—these things being said in good faith, the Senators begging that we will stay our hand until an honest effort can be made, I believe that there is a prospect of giving them a fair consideration!"
Small wonder is it, that this labored and ridiculous piece of impertinence was received with ironical laughter on the Republican side of the Senate Chamber. And it was in reference to these threats, and these preposterous demands—including the suppression of the right of Free Discussion and Liberty of the Press—that, in the same chamber (January 7, 1861) the gallant and eloquent Baker said:
"Your Fathers had fought for that right, and more than that, they had declared that the violation of that right was one of the great causes which impelled them to the Separation. * * * Sir, the Liberty of the Press is the highest safeguard to all Free Government. Ours could not exist without it. It is with us, nay, with all men, like a great exulting and abounding river, It is fed by the dews of Heaven, which distil their sweetest drops to form it. It gushes from the rill, as it breaks from the deep caverns of the Earth. It is fed by a thousand affluents, that dash from the mountaintop to separate again into a thousand bounteous and irrigating rills around. On its broad bosom it bears a thousand barks. There, Genius spreads its purpling sail. There, Poetry dips its silver oar. There, Art, Invention, Discovery, Science, Morality, Religion, may safely and securely float. It wanders through every land. It is a genial, cordial source of thought and inspiration, wherever it touches, whatever it surrounds. Sir, upon its borders, there grows every flower of Grace and every fruit of Truth. I am not here to deny that that Stream sometimes becomes a dangerous Torrent, and destroys towns and cities upon its bank; but I am here to say that without it, Civilization, Humanity, Government, all that makes Society itself, would disappear, and the World would return to its ancient Barbarism.
"Sir, if that were to be possible, or so thought for a moment, the fine conception of the great Poet would be realized. If that were to be possible, though but for a moment, Civilization itself would roll the wheels of its car backward for two thousand years. Sir, if that were so, it would be true that:
'As one by one in dread Medea's train, Star after Star fades off th' ethereal plain, Thus at her fell approach and secret might, Art after art goes out, and all is night. Philosophy, that leaned on Heaven before, Sinks to her second cause, and is no more. Religion, blushing, veils her sacred fires, And, unawares, Morality expires.'
"Sir, we will not risk these consequences, even for Slavery; we will not risk these consequences even for Union; we will not risk these consequences to avoid that Civil War with which you threaten us; that War which, you announce so deadly, and which you declare to be inevitable. * * * I will never yield to the idea that the great Government of this Country shall protect Slavery in any Territory now ours, or hereafter to be acquired. It is, in my opinion, a great principle of Free Government, not, to be surrendered.
"It is in my judgment, the object of the great battle which we have fought, and which we have won. It is, in my poor opinion, the point upon which there is concord and agreement between the great masses of the North, who may agree in no other political opinion whatever. Be he Republican, or Democrat, or Douglas man, or Lincoln man; be he from the North, or the West, from Oregon, or from Maine, in my judgment nine-tenths of the entire population of the North and West are devoted, in the very depths of their hearts, to the great Constitutional idea that Freedom is the rule, that Slavery is the exception, that it ought not to be extended by virtue of the powers of the Government of the United States; and, come weal, come woe, it never shall be.
"But, sir, I add one other thing. When you talk to me about Compromise or Concession, I am not sure that I always understand you. Do you mean that I am to give up my convictions of right? Armies cannot compel that in the breast of a Free People. Do you mean that I am to concede the benefits of the political struggle through which we have passed, considered politically, only? You are too just and too generous to ask that. Do you mean that we are to deny the great principle upon which our political action has been based? You know we cannot. But if you mean by Compromise and Concession to ask us to see whether we have not been hasty, angry, passionate, excited, and in many respects violated your feelings, your character, your right of property, we will look; and, as I said yesterday, if we have, we will undo it. Allow me to say again, if there be any lawyer or any Court that will advise us that our laws are unconstitutional, we will repeal them.
"Now as to territory. I will not yield one inch to Secession; but there are things that I will yield, and there are things to which I will yield. It is somewhere told that when Harold of England received a messenger from a brother with whom he was at variance, to inquire on what terms reconciliation and peace could be effected between brothers, he replied in a gallant and generous spirit in a few words, 'the terms I offer are the affection of a brother; and the Earldom of Northumberland.' And, said the Envoy, as he marched up the Hall amid the warriors that graced the state of the King, 'if Tosti, thy brother, agree to this, what terms will you allow to his ally and friend, Hadrada, the giant.' 'We will allow,' said Harold, 'to Hadrada, the giant, seven feet of English ground, and if he be, as they say, a giant, some few inches more!' and, as he spake, the Hall rang with acclamation.
"Sir, in that spirit I speak. I follow, at a humble distance, the ideas and the words of Clay, illustrious, to be venerated, and honored, and remembered, forever. * * * He said—I say: that I will yield no inch, no word, to the threat of Secession, unconstitutional, revolutionary, dangerous, unwise, at variance with the heart and the hope of all mankind save themselves. To that I yield nothing; but if States loyal to the Constitution, if people magnanimous and just, desiring a return of fraternal feeling, shall come to us and ask for Peace, for permanent, enduring peace and affection, and say, 'What will you grant? I say to them, 'Ask all that a gentleman ought to propose, and I will yield all that a gentleman ought to offer.' Nay, more: if you are galled because we claim the right to prohibit Slavery in territory now Free, or in any Territory which acknowledges our jurisdiction, we will evade—I speak but for myself—I will aid in evading that question; I will agree to make it all States, and let the People decide at once. I will agree to place them in that condition where the prohibition of Slavery will never be necessary to justify ourselves to our consciences or to our constituents. I will agree to anything which is not to force upon me the necessity of protecting Slavery in the name of Freedom. To that I never can and never will yield."
The speeches of Seward, of Douglas, of Crittenden, of Andrew Johnson, of Baker, and others, in behalf of the Union, and those of Benjamin, Davis, Wigfall, Lane, and others, in behalf of Secession, did much toward fixing the responsibility for the approaching bloody conflict where it belonged. The speeches of Andrew Johnson of Tennessee—who, if he at a subsequent period of the Nation's history, proved himself not the worthiest son of the Republic, at this critical time, at all events, did grand service in the National Senate—especially had great and good effect on the public mind in the Northern and Border States. They were, therefore, gall and wormwood to the Secession leaders, who hoped to drag the Border States into the great Southern Confederacy of States already in process of formation.
Their irritation was shown in threats of personal violence to Mr. Johnson, as when Wigfall—replying February 7th, 1861, to the latter's speech, said, "Now if the Senator wishes to denounce Secession and Nullification eo nomine, let him go back and denounce Jefferson; let him denounce Jackson, if he dare, and go back and look that Tennessee Democracy in the face, and see whether they will content themselves with riddling his effigy!"
It would seem also, from another part of Wigfall's reply, that the speeches of Union Senators had been so effective that a necessity was felt on the part of the Southern Conspirators to still further attempt to justify Secession by shifting the blame to Northern shoulders, for, while referring to the Presidential canvass of 1860—and the attitude of the Southern Secession leaders during that exciting period—he said: "We (Breckinridge-Democrats) gave notice, both North and South, that if Abraham Lincoln was elected, this Union was dissolved. I never made a speech during the canvass without asserting that fact. * * * Then, I say, that our purpose was not to dissolve the Union; but the dire necessity has been put upon us. The question is, whether we shall live longer in a Union in which a Party, hostile to us in every respect, has the power in Congress, in the Executive department, and in the Electoral Colleges—a Party who will have the power even in the Judiciary. We think it is not safe. We say that each State has the clear indisputable right to withdraw if she sees fit; and six of the States have already withdrawn, and one other State is upon the eve of withdrawing, if she has not already done so. How far this will spread no man can tell!"
As tending to show the peculiar mixture of brag, cajolery, and threats, involved in the attitude of the South, as expressed by the same favorite Southern mouthpiece, toward the Border-States on the one hand, and the Middle and New England States on the other, a further extract from this (February 7th) speech of the Texan Senator may be of interest. Said he:
"With exports to the amount of hundreds of millions of dollars, our imports must be the same. With a lighter Tariff than any people ever undertook to live under, we could have larger revenue. We would be able to stand Direct Taxation to a greater extent than any people ever could before, since the creation of the World. We feel perfectly competent to meet all issues that may be presented, either by hostility from abroad or treason at home. So far as the Border-States are concerned, it is a matter that concerns them alone. Should they confederate with us, beyond all doubt New England machinery will be worked with the water power of Tennessee, of Kentucky, of Virginia and of Maryland; the Tariff laws that now give New England the monopoly in the thirty-three States, will give to these Border States a monopoly in the Slave-holding States. Should the non-Slave-holding States choose to side against us in organizing their Governments, and cling to their New England brethren, the only result will be, that the meat, the horses, the hemp, and the grain, which we now buy in Pennsylvania, in Ohio, in Indiana and Illinois, will be purchased in Kentucky and in Western Virginia and in Missouri. Should Pennsylvania stand out, the only result will be, that the iron which is now dug in Pennsylvania, will be dug in the mountains of Tennessee and of Virginia and of Kentucky and of North Carolina. These things we know.
"We feel no anxiety at all, so far as money or men are concerned. We desire War with nobody; we intend to make no War; but we intend to live under just such a Government as we see fit. Six States have left this Union, and others are going to leave it simply because they choose to do it; that is all. We do not ask your consent; we do not wish it. We have revoked our ratification of the Treaty commonly known as the Constitution of the United States; a treaty for common defense and general welfare; and we shall be perfectly willing to enter into another Treaty with you, of peace and amity. Reject the olive branch and offer us the sword, and we accept it; we have not the slightest objection. Upon that subject we feel as the great William Lowndes felt upon another important subject, the Presidency, which he said was neither to be sought nor declined. When you invade our soil, look to your own borders. You say that you have too many people, too many towns, too dense a population, for us to invade you. I say to you Senators, that there is nothing that ever stops the march of an invading force, except a desert. The more populous a country, the more easy it is to subsist an army."
After declaring that—"Not only are our non-Slaveholders loyal, but even our Negroes are. We have no apprehensions whatever of insurrection—not the slightest. We can arm our negroes, and leave them at home, when we are temporarily absent"—Mr. Wigfall proceeded to say: "We may as well talk plainly about this matter. This is probably the last time I shall have an opportunity of addressing you. There is another thing that an invading army cannot do. It cannot burn up plantations. You can pull down fences, but the Negroes will put them up the next morning. The worst fuel that ever a man undertook to make fire with, is dirt; it will not burn. Now I have told you what an invading army cannot do. Suppose I reverse the picture and tell you what it can do. An invading army in an enemy's country, where there is a dense population, can subsist itself at a very little cost; it does not always pay for what it gets. An invading army can burn down towns; an invading army can burn down manufactories; and it can starve operatives. It can do all these things. But an Invading army, and an army to defend a Country, both require a military chest. You may bankrupt every man south of North Carolina, so that his credit is reduced to such a point that he could not discount a note for thirty dollars, at thirty days; but the next autumn those Cotton States will have just as much money and as much credit as they had before. They pick money off the cotton plant. Every time that a Negro touches a cotton-pod with his hand, he pulls a piece of silver out of it, and he drops it into the basket in which it is carried to the gin-house. It is carried to the packing screw. A bale of cotton rolls out-in other words, five ten-dollar pieces roll out —covered with canvas. We shall never again make less than five million bales of cotton. * * * We can produce five million bales of cotton, every bale worth fifty dollars, which is the lowest market price it has been for years past. We shall import a bale of something else, for every bale of cotton that we export, and that bale will be worth fifty dollars. We shall find no difficulty under a War-Tariff in raising an abundance of money. We have been at Peace for a very long time, We are very prosperous. Our planters use their cotton, not to buy the necessaries of life, but for the superfluities, which they can do without. The States themselves have a mine of wealth in the loyalty and the wealth of their citizens. Georgia, Mississippi, any one of those States can issue its six per cent. bonds tomorrow, and receive cotton in payment to the extent almost of the entire crop. They can first borrow from their own citizens; they can tax them to an almost unlimited extent; and they can raise revenue from a Tariff to an almost unlimited extent.
"How will it be with New England? where will their revenue come from? From your Custom-houses? what do you export? You have been telling us here for the last quarter of a century, that you cannot manufacture, even for the home market, under the Tariffs which we have given you. When this Tariff ceases to operate in your favor, and you have to pay for coming into our markets, what will you export? When your machinery ceases to move, and your operatives are turned out, will you tax your broken capitalist or your starving operative? When the navigation laws cease to operate, what will become of your shipping interest? You are going to blockade our ports, you say. That is a very innocent game; and you suppose we shall sit quietly down and submit to a blockade. I speak not of foreign interference, for we look not for it. We are just as competent to take Queen Victoria and Louis Napoleon under our protection, as they are to take us; and they are a great deal more interested to-day in receiving cotton from our ports than we are in shipping it. You may lock up every bale of cotton within the limits of the eight Cotton States, and not allow us to export one for three years, and we shall not feel it further than our military resources are concerned. Exhaust the supply of cotton in Europe for one week, and all Europe is in revolution.
"These are facts. You will blockade us! Do you suppose we shall do nothing, even upon the sea? How many letters of marque and reprisal would it take to put the whole of your ships up at your wharves to rot? Will any merchant at Havre, or Liverpool, or any other portion of the habitable globe, ship a cargo upon a New England, or New York, or Philadelphia clipper, or other ship, when he knows that the seas are swarming with letters of marque and reprisal? Why the mere apprehension of such a thing will cut you out of the Carrying Trade of the civilized World. * * * I speak not of the absurdity of the position that you can blockade our ports, admitting at the same time that we are in the Union. Blockade is a remedy, as all writers on International law say, against a Foreign Power with whom you are at War. You cannot use a blockade against your own people. An embargo even, you cannot use. That is a remedy against a Foreign Nation with whom you expect to be at War. You must treat us as in the Union, or out of it. We have gone out. We are willing to live at peace with you; but, as sure as fate, whenever any flag comes into one of our ports, that has thirty-three stars upon it, that flag will be fired at. Displaying a flag with stars which we have plucked from that bright galaxy, is an insult to the State within whose waters that flag is displayed. You cannot enforce the laws without Coercion, and you cannot Coerce without War.
"These matters, then, can be settled. How? By withdrawing your troops; admitting our right to Self-government clearly, unqualifiedly. Do this, and there is no difficulty about it. You say that you will not do it. Very well; we have no objection—none whatever. That is Coercion. When you have attempted it, you will find that you have made War. These, Senators, are facts. I come here to plead for Peace; but I have seen so much and felt so much, that I am becoming at last, to tell the plain truth of the matter, rather indifferent as to which way the thing turns. If you want War, you can have it. If you want Peace, you can get it; but I plead not for Peace."
Meanwhile the Seceding States of the South were strengthening their attitude by Confederation. On February 4, 1861, the Convention of Seceding States, called by the South Carolina Convention at the time of her Secession, met, in pursuance of that call, at Montgomery, Alabama, and on the 9th adopted a Provisional Constitution and organized a Provisional Government by the election of Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, as President, and Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia, as Vice-President; to serve until a Presidential election could be held by the people of the Confederacy.
[At a later day, March 11, 1861, a permanent Constitution for the "Confederate States" was adopted, and, in the Fall of the same year, Messrs. Davis and Stephens were elected by popular vote, for the term of six years ensuing, as President and Vice-President, respectively, of the Confederacy.]
Mr. Davis almost at once left Jackson, Mississippi, for Montgomery, where he arrived and delivered his Inaugural, February 17, having received on his road thither a succession of ovations from the enthusiastic Rebels, to which he had responded with no less than twenty-five speeches, very similar in tone to those made in the United States Senate by Mr. Wigfall and others of that ilk—breathing at once defiance and hopefulness, while admitting the difficulties in the way of the new Confederacy.
"It may be," said he, at Jackson, "that we will be confronted by War; that the attempt will be made to blockade our ports, to starve us out; but they (the Union men of the North) know little of the Southern heart, of Southern endurance. No amount of privation could force us to remain in a Union on unequal terms. England and France would not allow our great staple to be dammed up within our present limits; the starving thousands in their midst would not allow it. We have nothing to apprehend from Blockade. But if they attempt invasion by land, we must take the War out of our territory. If War must come, it must be upon Northern, and not upon Southern soil. In the meantime, if they were prepared to grant us Peace, to recognize our equality, all is well."
And, in his speech at Stevenson, Alabama, said he "Your Border States will gladly come into the Southern Confederacy within sixty days, as we will be their only friends. England will recognize us, and a glorious future is before us. The grass will grow in the Northern cities, where the pavements have been worn off by the tread of Commerce. We will carry War where it is easy to advance—where food for the sword and torch await our Armies in the densely populated cities; and though they may come and spoil our crops, we can raise them as before; while they cannot rear the cities which took years of industry and millions of money to build."
Very different in tone to these, were the kindly and sensible utterances of Mr. Lincoln on his journey from Springfield to Washington, about the same time, for Inauguration as President of the United States. Leaving Springfield, Illinois, February 11th, he had pathetically said:
"My friends: No one, not in my position, can realize the sadness I feel at this parting. To this people I owe all that I am. Here I have lived more than a quarter of a century. Here my children were born, and here one of them lies buried. I know not how soon I shall see you again. I go to assume a task more difficult than that which has devolved upon any other man since the days of Washington. He never would have succeeded except for the aid of Divine Providence, upon which he at all times relied. I feel that I cannot succeed without the same Divine blessing which sustained him; and on the same Almighty Being I place my reliance for support. And I hope you, my friends, will all pray that I may receive that Divine assistance, without which I cannot succeed, but with which success is certain. Again I bid you an affectionate farewell."
At Indianapolis, that evening, the eve of his birthday anniversary, after thanking the assembled thousands for their "magnificent welcome," and defining the words "Coercion" and "Invasion"—at that time so loosely used—he continued: "But if the United States should merely hold and retake her own Forts and other property, and collect the duties on foreign importation, or even withhold the mails from places where they were habitually violated, would any or all of these things be 'Invasion' or 'Coercion'? Do our professed lovers of the Union, who spitefully resolve that they will resist Coercion and Invasion, understand that such things as these on the part of the United States would be 'Coercion' or 'Invasion' of a State? If so, their idea of means to preserve the object of their great affection would seem to be exceedingly thin and airy."
At Columbus, Ohio, he spoke in a like calm, conservative, reasoning way —with the evident purpose of throwing oil on the troubled waters—when he said: "I have not maintained silence from any want of real anxiety. It is a good thing that there is no more than anxiety; for there is nothing going wrong. It is a consoling circumstance that, when we look out, there is nothing that really hurts anybody. We entertain different views upon political questions; but nobody is suffering anything. This is a consoling circumstance; and from it we may conclude that all we want is time, patience, and a reliance on that God who has never forsaken this People."
So, too, at Pittsburg, Pa., February 15th, he said, of "our friends," as he termed them, the Secessionists: "Take even their own views of the questions involved, and there is nothing to justify the course they are pursuing. I repeat, then, there is no crisis, except such an one as may be gotten up at any time by turbulent men, aided by designing politicians. My advice to them, under the circumstances, is to keep cool. If the great American People only keep their temper both sides of the line, the trouble will come to an end, and the question which now distracts the Country be settled, just as surely as all other difficulties, of a like character, which have been originated in this Government, have been adjusted. Let the people on both sides keep their self-possession, and, just as other clouds have cleared away in due time, so will this great Nation continue to prosper as heretofore."
And toward the end of that journey, on the 22nd of February —Washington's Birthday—in the Independence Hall at Philadelphia, after eloquently affirming his belief that "the great principle or idea that kept this Confederacy so long together was * * * that sentiment in the Declaration of Independence which gave Liberty not alone to the People of this Country, but" he hoped "to the World, for all future time * * * which gave promise that, in due time, the weight would be lifted from the shoulders of all men"—he added, in the same firm, yet temperate and reassuring vein: "Now, my friends, can this Country be saved on that basis? If it can, I will consider myself one of the happiest men in the world, if I can help to save it. If it cannot be saved on that basis, it will be truly awful. But, if this Country cannot be saved without giving up that principle, I was about to say I would rather be assassinated on this spot than surrender it. Now in my view of the present aspect of affairs, there need be no bloodshed or War. There is no necessity for it. I am not in favor of such a course; and I may say, in advance, that there will be no bloodshed, unless it be forced upon the Government, and then it will be compelled to act in self-defense. * * * I have said nothing but what I am willing to live by, and, if it be the pleasure of Almighty God, to die by."
Thus, as he progressed on that memorable journey from his home in Illinois, through Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Erie, Buffalo, Albany, New York, Trenton, Newark, Philadelphia, and Harrisburg-amid the prayers and blessings and acclamations of an enthusiastic and patriotic people—he uttered words of wise conciliation and firm moderation such as beseemed the high functions and tremendous responsibilities to which the voice of that liberty—and-union-loving people had called him, and this too, with a full knowledge, when he made the Philadelphia speech, that the enemies of the Republic had already planned to assassinate him before he could reach Washington.
The prudence of his immediate friends, fortunately defeated the murderous purpose—and by the simple device of taking the regular night express from Philadelphia instead of a special train next day—to Washington, he reached the National Capital without molestation early on the morning of the 23rd of February.
That morning, after Mr. Lincoln's arrival, in company with Mr. Lovejoy, the writer visited him at Willard's Hotel. During the interview both urged him to "Go right along, protect the property of the Country, and put down the Rebellion, no matter at what cost in men and money." He listened with grave attention, and said little, but very clearly indicated his approval of all the sentiments thus expressed—and then, with the same firm and manly and cheerful faith in the outcome, he added: "As the Country has placed me at the helm of the Ship, I'll try to steer her through."
The spirit in which he proposed to accomplish this superhuman task, was shown when he told the Southern people through the Civic authorities of Washington on the 27th of February—When the latter called upon him —that he had no desire or intention to interfere with any of their Constitutional rights—that they should have all their rights under the Constitution, "not grudgingly, but fully and fairly." And what was the response of the South to this generous and conciliatory message? Personal sneers—imputations of Northern cowardice—boasts of Southern prowess—scornful rejection of all compromise—and an insolent challenge to the bloody issue of arms!
Said Mr. Wigfall, in the United States Senate, on March 2d, alluding to Mr. Lincoln, "I do not think that a man who disguises himself in a soldier's cloak and a Scotch cap (a more thorough disguise could not be assumed by such a man) and makes his entry between day and day, into the Capital of the Country that he is to govern—I hardly think that he is going to look War sternly in the face.
[Had Mr. Wigfall been able at this time to look four years into the future and behold the downfall of the Southern Rebellion, the flight of its Chieftains, and the capture of Jefferson Davis while endeavoring to escape, with his body enclosed in a wrapper and a woman's shawl over his head, as stated by Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart of Jefferson Davis's Staff, p. 756, vol. ii., Greeley's American Conflict—he would hardly have retailed this slander.]
"I look for nothing else than that the Commissioners from the Confederated States will be received here and recognized by Abraham Lincoln. I will now predict that this Republican Party that is going to enforce the Laws, preserve the Union, and collect Revenue, will never attempt anything so silly; and that instead of taking Forts, the troops will be withdrawn from those which we now have. See if this does not turn out to be so, in less than a week or ten days."
In the same insulting diatribe, he said: "It is very easy for men to bluster who know there is going to be no danger. Four or five million people living in a territory that extends from North Carolina down to the Rio Grande, who have exports to above three hundred million dollars, whose ports cannot be blockaded, but who can issue letters of marque and reprisal, and sweep your commerce from the seas, and who will do it, are not going to be trifled with by that sensible Yankee nation. Mark my words. I did think, at one time, there was going to be War; I do not think so now. * * * The Star of the West swaggered into Charleston harbor, received a blow planted full in the face, and staggered out. Your flag has been insulted; redress it if you dare! You have submitted to it for two months, and you will submit to it for ever. * * * We have dissolved the Union; mend it if you can; cement it with blood; try the experiment! we do not desire War; we wish to avoid it. * * * This we say; and if you choose to settle this question by the Sword, we feel, we know, that we have the Right. We interfere with you in no way. We ask simply that you will not interfere with us. * * * You tell us you will keep us in the Union. Try the experiment!"
And then, with brutal frankness, he continued: "Now, whether what are called The Crittenden Resolutions will produce satisfaction in some of these Border States, or not, I am unaware; but I feel perfectly sure they would not be entertained upon the Gulf. As to the Resolutions which the Peace Congress has offered us, we might as well make a clean breast of it. If those Resolutions were adopted, and ratified by three fourths of the States of this Union, and no other cause ever existed, I make the assertion that the seven States now out of the Union, would go out upon that."
THE REJECTED OLIVE BRANCH.
While instructive, it will also not be devoid of interest, to pause here, and examine the nature of the Crittenden Resolutions, and also the Resolutions of the Peace Congress, which, we have seen, were spurned by the Secession leaders, through their chief mouthpiece in the United States Senate.
The Crittenden Compromise Resolutions * were in these words:
"A Joint Resolution proposing certain Amendments to the Constitution of the United States:
"Whereas, serious and alarming dissensions have arisen between the Northern and the Southern States, concerning the Rights and security of the Rights of the Slaveholding States, and especially their Rights in the common territory of the United States; and whereas, it is eminently desirable and proper that these dissensions, which now threaten the very existence of this Union, should be permanently quieted and settled by Constitutional provisions which shall do equal justice to all Sections, and thereby restore to the People that peace and good-will which ought to prevail between all the citizens of the United States; Therefore:
"Resolved, by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, (two thirds of both Houses concurring), the following articles be, and are hereby proposed and submitted as amendments to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of said Constitution, when ratified by Conventions of three-fourths of the several States:
"Article I. In all the territory of the United States now held, or hereafter to be acquired, situate north of latitude 36 30', Slavery or involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, is prohibited, while such territory shall remain under Territorial government. In all the territory south of said line of latitude, Slavery of the African race is hereby recognized as existing, and shall not be interfered with by Congress, but shall be protected as Property by all the departments of the Territorial government during its continuance. And when any Territory, north or south of said line, within such boundaries as Congress may prescribe, shall contain the population requisite for a member of Congress, according to the then Federal ratio of representation of the People of the United States, it shall, if its own form of government be republican, be admitted into the Union, on an equal footing with the original States; with or without Slavery, as the Constitution of such new State may provide.
"Article II. Congress shall have no power to abolish Slavery in places under its exclusive jurisdiction, and situate within the limits of States that permit the holding of Slaves.
"Article III. Congress shall have no power to abolish Slavery within the District of Columbia; so long as it exists in the adjoining States of Virginia and Maryland, or either, nor without the consent of the inhabitants, nor without just compensation first made to such owners of Slaves as do not consent to such abolishment. Nor shall Congress, at any time, prohibit officers of the Federal government, or members of Congress whose duties require them to be in said District, from bringing with them their Slaves, and holding them as such during the time their duties may require them to remain there, and afterward taking them from the District.
"Article IV. Congress shall have no power to prohibit or hinder the Transportation of Slaves from one State to another, or to a Territory in which Slaves are, by law, permitted to be held, whether that transportation be by land, navigable rivers, or by the sea.
"Article V. That in addition to the provisions of the third paragraph of the second section of the fourth article of the Constitution of the United States, Congress shall have power to provide by law, and it shall be its duty to provide, that the United States shall pay to the owner who shall apply for it, the full value of his Fugitive Slaves in all cases where the Marshal, or other officer whose duty it was to arrest said Fugitive, was prevented from so doing by violence or intimidation, or where, after arrest, said Fugitive was rescued by force, and the owner thereby prevented and obstructed in the pursuit of his remedy for the recovery of his Fugitive Slave under the said clause of the Constitution and the laws made in pursuance thereof.
["No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due."—Art. IV., Sec. 2, P 3, U. S. Constitution.]
"And in all such cases, when the United States shall pay for such Fugitive, they shall have the Right, in their own name, to sue the county in which said violence, intimidation, or rescue, was committed, and recover from it, with interest and damages, the amount paid by them for said Fugitive Slave. And the said county, after it has paid said amount to the United States, may, for its indemnity, sue and recover from the wrong-doers or rescuers by whom the owner was prevented from the recovery of his Fugitive Slave, in like manner as the owner himself might have sued and recovered.
"Article VI. No future amendment of the Constitution shall affect the five preceding articles; nor the third paragraph of the second section of the first article of the Constitution, nor the third paragraph of the second section of the fourth article of said Constitution; and no amendment shall be made to the Constitution which shall authorize or give to Congress any power to abolish or interfere with Slavery in any of the States by whose laws it is or may be, allowed or permitted.
["Representatives and Direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of Free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not Taxed, three-fifths of all Other Persons," etc.—Art. 1., Sec. 2, P 3, U. S. Constitution.]
"And whereas, also, besides those causes of dissension embraced in the foregoing amendments proposed to the Constitution of the United States, there are others which come within the jurisdiction of Congress, and may be remedied by its legislative power; And whereas it is the desire of Congress, as far as its power will extend, to remove all just cause for the popular discontent and agitation which now disturb the peace of the Country and threaten the stability of its Institutions; Therefore:
"1. Resolved by the Senate and house of Representatives in Congress assembled, that the laws now in force for the recovery of Fugitive Slaves are in strict pursuance of the plain and mandatory provisions of the Constitution, and have been sanctioned as valid and Constitutional by the judgment of the Supreme Court of the United States; that the Slaveholding States are entitled to the faithful observance and execution of those laws; and that they ought not to be repealed, or so modified or changed as to impair their efficiency; and that laws ought to be made for the punishment of those who attempt, by rescue of the Slave, or other illegal means, to hinder or defeat the due execution of said laws.
"2. That all State laws which conflict with the Fugitive Slave Acts of Congress, or any other Constitutional Acts of Congress, or which, in their operation, impede, hinder, or delay, the free course and due execution of any of said Acts, are null and void by the plain provisions of the Constitution of the United States; yet those State laws, void as they are, have given color to practices, and led to consequences, which have obstructed the due administration and execution of Acts of Congress, and especially the Acts for the delivery of Fugitive Slaves; and have thereby contributed much to the discord and commotion now prevailing. Congress, therefore, in the present perilous juncture, does not deem it improper, respectfully and earnestly, to recommend the repeal of those laws to the several States which have enacted them, or such legislative corrections or explanations of them as may prevent their being used or perverted to such mischievous purposes.
"3. That the Act of the 18th of September, 1850, commonly called the Fugitive Slave Law, ought to be so amended as to make the fee of the Commissioner, mentioned in the eighth section of the Act, equal in amount in the cases decided by him, whether his decision be in favor of, or against the claimant. And, to avoid misconstruction, the last clause of the fifth section of said Act, which authorizes the person holding a warrant for the arrest or detention of a Fugitive Slave to summon to his aid the posse comitatus, and which declares it to be the duty of all good citizens to assist him in its execution, ought to be so amended as to expressly limit the authority and duty to cases in which there shall be resistance, or danger of resistance or rescue.
"4. That the laws for the suppression of the African Slave Trade, and especially those prohibiting the importation of Slaves into the United States, ought to be more effectual, and ought to be thoroughly executed; and all further enactments necessary to those ends ought to be promptly made."
The Peace Conference, or "Congress," it may here be mentioned, was called, by action of the Legislature of Virginia, to meet at Washington, February 4, 1861. The invitation was extended to all of such "States of this Confederacy * * * whether Slaveholding or Non-Slaveholding, as are willing to unite with Virginia in an earnest effort to adjust the present unhappy controversies in the spirit in which the Constitution was originally formed, and consistently with its principles, so as to afford to the people of the Slaveholding States adequate guarantees for the security of their rights"—such States to be represented by Commissioners "to consider, and, if practicable, agree upon some suitable adjustment."
The Conference, or "Congress," duly convened, at that place and time, and organized by electing ex-President John Tyler, of Virginia, its President. This Peace Congress—which comprised 133 Commissioners, representing the States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Kansas—remained in session until February 27, 1861—and then submitted the result of its labors to Congress, with the request that Congress "will submit it to Conventions in the States, as Article Thirteen of the Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, in the following shape:
"Section 1. In all the present territory of the United States, north of the parallel of 36 30' of north latitude, Involuntary Servitude, except in punishment of crime, is prohibited. In all the present territory south of that line, the status of Persons held to Involuntary Service or Labor, as it now exists, shall not be changed; nor shall any law be passed by Congress or the Territorial Legislature to hinder or prevent the taking of such Persons from any of the States of this Union to said Territory, nor to impair the Rights arising from said relation; but the same shall be subject to judicial cognizance in the Federal Courts, according to the course of the common law. When any Territory north or south of said line, within such boundary as Congress may prescribe, shall contain a population equal to that required for a member of Congress, it shall, if its form of government be republican, be admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the original States, with or without Involuntary Servitude, as the Constitution of such State may provide.
"Section 2. No territory shall be acquired by the United States, except by discovery and for naval and commercial stations, depots, and transit routes, without the concurrence of a majority of all the Senators from States which allow Involuntary Servitude, and a majority of all the Senators from States which prohibit that relation; nor shall Territory be acquired by treaty, unless the votes of a majority of the Senators from each class of States hereinbefore mentioned be cast as a part of the two-thirds majority necessary to the ratification of such treaty.
"Section 3. Neither the Constitution, nor any amendment thereof, shall be construed to give Congress power to regulate, abolish, or control, within any State, the relation established or recognized by the laws thereof touching Persons held to Labor or Involuntary Service therein, nor to interfere with or abolish Involuntary Service in the District of Columbia without the consent of Maryland, and without the consent of the owners, or making the owners who do not consent just compensation; nor the power to interfere with or prohibit Representatives and others from bringing with them to the District of Columbia, retaining, and taking away, Persons so held to Labor or Service; nor the power to interfere with or abolish Involuntary Service in places under the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States within those States and Territories where the same is established or recognized; nor the power to prohibit the removal or transportation of Persons held to Labor or Involuntary Service in any State or Territory of the United States to any other State or Territory thereof where it is established or recognized by law or usage; and the right during transportation, by sea or river, of touching at ports, shores, and landings, and of landing in case of distress, shall exist; but not the right of transit in or through any State or Territory, or of sale or traffic, against the laws thereof. Nor shall Congress have power to authorize any higher rate of taxation on Persons held to Labor or Service than on land. The bringing into the District of Columbia of Persons held to Labor or Service, for sale, or placing them in depots to be afterwards transferred to other places for sale as merchandize, is prohibited.
"Section 4. The third paragraph of the second section of the fourth article of the Constitution shall not be construed to prevent any of the States, by appropriate legislation, and through the action of their judicial and ministerial officers, from enforcing the delivery of Fugitives from Labor to the person to whom such Service or Labor is due.
"Section 5. The Foreign Slave Trade is hereby forever prohibited; and it shall be the duty of Congress to pass laws to prevent the importation of Slaves, Coolies, or Persons held to Service or Labor, into the United States and the Territories from places beyond the limits thereof.
"Section 6. The first, third, and fifth sections, together with this section of these amendments, and the third paragraph of the second section of the first article of the Constitution, and the third paragraph of the second section of the fourth article thereof, shall not be amended or abolished without the consent of all the States.
"Section 7. Congress shall provide by law that the United States shall pay to the owner the full value of the Fugitive from Labor, in all cases where the Marshal, or other officer, whose duty it was to arrest such Fugitive, was prevented from so doing by violence or intimidation from mobs or riotous assemblages, or when, after arrest, such Fugitive was rescued by like violence or intimidation, and the owner thereby deprived of the same; and the acceptance of such payment shall preclude the owner from further claim to such Fugitive. Congress shall provide by law for securing to the citizens of each State the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States."
To spurn such propositions as these—with all the concessions to the Slave Power therein contained—was equivalent to spurning any and all propositions that could possibly be made; and by doing this, the Seceding States placed themselves—as they perhaps desired—in an utterly irreconcilable attitude, and hence, to a certain extent, which had not entered into their calculations, weakened their "Cause" in the eyes of many of their friends in the North, in the Border States, and in the World. They had become Implacables. Practically considered, this was their great mistake. The Crittenden Compromise Resolutions covered and yielded to the Slaveholders of the South all and even more than they had ever dared seriously to ask or hope for, and had they been open to Conciliation, they could have undoubtedly carried that measure through both Houses of Congress and three-fourths of the States.
["Its advocates, with good reason, claimed a large majority of the People in its favor, and clamored for its submission to a direct popular vote. Had such a submission been accorded, it is very likely that the greater number of those who voted at all would have voted to ratify it. * * * The 'Conservatives,' so called, were still able to establish this Crittenden Compromise by their own proper strength, had they been disposed so to do. The President was theirs; the Senate strongly theirs; in the House, they had a small majority, as was evidenced in their defeat of John Sherman for Speaker. Had they now come forward and said, with authority: 'Enable us to pass the Crittenden Compromise, and all shall be peace and harmony,' they would have succeeded without difficulty. It was only through the withdrawal of pro-slavery members that the Republicans had achieved an unexpected majority in either House. Had those members chosen to return to the seats still awaiting them, and to support Mr. Crittenden's proposition, they could have carried it without difficulty."—Vol. 360, Greeley's Am. Conflict.]
But no, they wilfully withdrew their Congressional membership, State by State, as each Seceded, and refused all terms save those which involved an absolute surrender to them on all points, including the impossible claim of the "Right of Secession."
Let us now briefly trace the history of the Compromise measures in the two Houses of Congress.
The Crittenden-Compromise Joint-Resolution had been introduced in the Senate at the opening of its session and referred to a Select Committee of Thirteen, and subsequently, January 16th, 1861, having been reported back, came up in that body for action. On that day it was amended by inserting the words "now held or hereafter to be acquired" after the words "In all the territory of the United States," in the first line of Article I., so that it would read as given above. This amendment—by which not only in all territory then belonging to the United States, but also by implication in all that might thereafter be acquired, Slavery South of 36 30' was to be recognized—was agreed to by 29 yeas to 21 nays, as follows: