Slike strani
PDF
ePub

Notwithstanding the overwhelming evidence of the existence of a wido-spread, long planned conspiracy to dissolve the Union, evidence which could be accumulated to almost any extent, the people of the North were slow to believe that those who threatened, were really in earnest; equally slow to believe tho leaders were unappeasable, and, being themselves unwilling to resort to force, they were ready to yield almost everything to secure harmony. The conspirators, and those who were made to sympathize with alleged Southern wrongs, were misled and encouraged by the iden, too generally expressed by Northern democratic politicians, and the democratic prees, that the South was right, and really suffered real wrongs; and that the South had a right to secede, and should be met by conciliation, concession and compromise.

Mr. Johnson, a prominent politician of central New York, said, at a State convention held at Albany, on the 31st of January, 1861: “The will of a large portion of the citizens of this State is against any armed coercion to restore the Union by civil war. If Congress and our States cannot win back our southern brethren, let us, at least, part as friends."

Leading democrats proclaimed: Union by compromise, or peaceable separation.

Some of the conspirators were led to believe, from the expressions of the press and politicians, that either there would be no attempt at coercion, or, if there should be, the Democrats would be found on the side of the seceding States.

At the opening of the second session of the Thirty-sixth Congress, President Buchanan said, in substance, that while no State had a right to secede, the Federal Government could not coerce a sovereign State. He told the conspirators they had no right to secede, but if they did, he could not prevent it. This was all they wanted. They were bold, unscrupulous, determined men, with well defined purposes. Buchanan urged that the Union was not to be preserved by force, but by compromise. In other words we had no government. The Union was an association, to exist as long as the States found it agreeable. The Government; according to Buchanan, was mere moral suasion — without authority. Had he

:

[ocr errors]

6

announced with dignity, decision, and power, that the Government was the majesty of authority, armed with power, and in its right hand the sword to compel obedience, he could have enforced submission, and maintained National authority. His message greatly encouraged and emboldened the conspirators. It was referred by the House, to a Select Committee of one from each State, of which Mr. Corwin, of Ohio, was Chairman, to report measures of pacification. But Mr. Iverson, Senator from Georgia, expressed the animus of the conspirators, when he exclaimed: “ Gentlemen talk of concession, the repeal of personal liberty bills ! Repeal them all to-morrow, and you cannot stop the revolution. There will be no war!said he.

Ben. Wade, Senator from Ohio, staunch, fearless, blunt, and honest, in the face of the conspirators and compromisers, said: “We will prohibit slavery from invading another inch of the free soil of the United States. I will stand by this principle. We pretend to no right to interfere with your institution' in your States, but we beat you on the plainest and most palpable principle ever presented to the American people, and now we tell you plainly, our candidate shall be inaugurated, and shall administer the Government."

A committee of thirteen in the Senate had been raised to report measures of pacification. This committee, and Mr. Corwin's committee of thirty-three in the House, reported and discussed various propositions of compromise. Many of these propositions offered by way of concession by Northern members, were voted down by the conspirators. It was clear they did not wish compromise measures to succeed. They 80 conducted matters as to throw odium on the North, and consolidate and unite public sentiment at the South in favor of secession.

To avert the threatening dangers, the “ Peace Convention," was called at Washington. This was a convention of delegates from nearly all the free States, and several of the slave States, to consult and see on what terms the disaffected, and traitorous, could be induced to abandon their purposes. There

were, as we have seen, many at the North who believed the secession movement was only a “strike" for additional

guarantees for slavery. It had become a settled custom of the slaveholders, whenever they wished to carry a point, to threaten to dissolve the Union. They had demanded Louisiana, and it had been purchased for them; Florida, and it was obtained; Texas, and it was annexed; a more stringent and humiliating fugitive slave law, and it was passed; the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, and it was repealed; the Dred Scott decision, and it was decided that a negro had “no rights.” Thus, they had become arrogant, because their demands, backed by threats, had been so long yielded to. Many believed that by adding new concessions, the slave power might be pacified. But, when liberal concessions were voted down by the conspirators themselves, it became evident that they had deliberately resolved to force an issue, and go out of the Union. Charles Francis Adams, from the Ilouse Committee of thirty-three, reported, “ that no form of adjustment will be satisfactory to the recusant States, which does not incorporate into the Constitution of the United States, an obligation to protect and extend slavery. On this condition, and on this alone, will they consent to withdraw their opposition to the recognition of the Constitutional election of the Chief Magistrate. Viewing the matter in this light, it seems unadvisable to attempt to proceed a step further in the way of offering unacceptable propositions.” It was clear the conspirators had resolved on revolution.

While these movements of the traitors were going on in the cotton States, and State after State was passing ordinances of secession, the conspirations at Washington, held their secret meetings, and leading Senators and members, acting in concert with traitors in the Cabinet, so managed as to thwart all the movements of General Scott, and to paralize the action of such few faithful officers as sought to preserve the Union.

There was a meeting held at the Capital on the night of January 5th, at which Jefferson Davis, Senators Toombs, Iverson, Slidell, Benjamin, Wigfall, and other leading conspirators were present. They resolved in secret conclave to precipitate secession and disunion as soon as possible, and at the same time, that Senators and members of the House

should remain in their seats at the Capitol, as long as possible, to watch and control the action of the Executive, and thwart, and defeat any hostile measure proposed.

In accordance with concerted plans, some of the Senators and members, as the States they represented passed ordinances of secession, retired from the Senate and House of Representatives. Some went forth breathing war and vengeance, others expressing deep feeling and regret. Nearly all were careful to draw their pay, stationery, and doouments, and their mileage home,from the treasury of the Government, they went home avowedly to overthrow. There were two honorable exceptions among

the

representatives from the Gulf States, Mr. Bouligny, representative from New Orleans, and Andrew J. Hamilton, from Texas. They remained true to the Union.

On the evening of the 8d of March, 1861, when the Thirtysixth Congress was about to expire, Hamilton, when bidding farewell to his associates said, “I am going home to Teras, and I shall stand by the old flag, as long as there is a shred of it left as big as my hand.

Nobly, bravely, has he redeemed that pledge. He stood by the flag through all the perils of the war, and as Provincial Governor of Texas, he has aided in the restoration of that Union to which he was ever steadfast and true.

The absence of declaratory laws by Congress, had been much relied upon by Mr. Buchanan's Attorney General, Mr. Black, in his labored argument to show that the Executive had no power to coerce States.

In accordance with the programme of the conspirators, Sonth Carolina, had adopted the ordinance of secession, on the 17th of November, 1860; Mississippi, January 9th, 1861; Georgia, January 19th; Florida, January 10th; Alabama, January 11th; Loui

11th; Louisiana, January 25th, and Texas, February 1st.*

These seven seceding States, appointed delegates to meet in convention, at Montgomery, Alabama. They met on the 4th of February, and organized a Provisional Government,

Mapherson's Ellstory, p. ? and &

similar in many respects, to the Constitution of the United States; under which Jefferson Davis was made President, and Alexander H. Stephens, Vice President.

The President of the Confederate States, was a man of culture and large experience in public affairs. Born in Kentucky, educated at West Point, at the expense of the Government he sought to overthrow, he entered public life as the follower of Calhoun. He was of an imperious temper, and of a most intense personal ambition. He favored the repudiation by the State of Mississippi, of the bonds issued by that State, and thus brought deep disgrace upon the American character. He was called to the position of Secretary of War by President Pierce, and in that position he deliberately conducted the affairs of the War Department with a view to strengthen the slave States, preparatory to a separation, and for war, if necessary, to secure separation. As the head of the insurgents at Montgomery, he was guilty of opening the bloody tragedy of civil war, by ordering the fire upon Fort Sumpter. The character of the man may be inferred from the language he used in a speech on his way from Mississippi to Montgomery, to assume the Presidency. “We will carry the war,” said he, “where it is easy to advance, where food for the sword and torch await our armies in the densely populated cities.” Such was the war this man inaugurated and carried on until his ignominious capture. How different this from the forbearing, dignified, christian spirit of magnanimity which ever characterized the language of the Chief Magistrate of the Union during the war.

Davis used the language of the incendiary and conspirator, while Lincoln was ever the dignified and scrupulous Chief Magistrate. With him, it was always, “ with malice towards none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right us God gives us to see the right," that he discharged his duty.

The atrocities of the war, the treatment of prisoners, the the massacre of Negro soldiers, and the catalogue of barbarities down to the fiend-like assassination of Lincoln, were but the exhibition of the same spirit, which, on the very threshhold indicated the torch, and the densely populated Northern cities as its food.

« PrejšnjaNaprej »